Health

CDC warns of listeria outbreak linked to deli meat that has left 28 sick, 2 dead

Products sold at the deli, especially those sliced or prepared at the deli, can be contaminated with Listeria. Image via CDC.

(NEW YORK) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning Americans about a listeria outbreak that has sickened more than two dozen people across 12 states, possibly linked to deli meat.

As of Friday, 28 people have fallen ill — all of whom have been hospitalized — and two people have died, one from Illinois and one from New Jersey, according to the federal health agency.

New York is the state with the most cases at seven, followed by Maryland with six. States that have also reported cases include Illinois, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

“The true number of sick people in this outbreak is likely higher than the number reported, and the outbreak may not be limited to the states with known illnesses,” the CDC wrote in its update on Friday. “This is because some people recover without medical care and are not tested for Listeria. In addition, recent illnesses may not yet be reported as it usually takes 3 to 4 weeks to determine if a sick person is part of an outbreak.”

The CDC said it and its partners, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS), are collecting data to determine the source of the outbreak. Many of the patients in this outbreak reported eating meats sliced at deli counters before falling ill.

There is currently no information indicating that people are getting sick from prepackaged deli meats.

“Of the 18 people able to be interviewed, 16 reported eating meats sliced at a deli, most commonly deli-sliced turkey, liverwurst and ham. Meats were sliced at a variety of supermarket and grocery store delis,” the CDC wrote.

Cases have been reported between May 29 and July 5, CDC data shows. Patients’ ages range from 32 years old to 94 years old with a median age of 75. A total of 72% of patients identify as white with 23% identifying as Black or African American and 5% as Asian.

When people eat food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, it can cause a serious infection known as listeriosis. This can progress to invasive listeriosis, when the bacteria spread beyond the gut to other parts of the body, according to the CDC.

Symptoms of severe illness usually begin one to four weeks after eating the contaminated food but can start as early as the same day or as late as 70 later, the CDC said.

An estimated 1,600 people get listeriosis annually and about 260 people die. Those most at risk include pregnant people and newborns, adults aged 65 or older and people with weakened immune systems.

Those who are not pregnant are likely to experience symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, stiff neck, confusion or loss of balance. Those who are pregnant are likely to experience just a fever and flu-like symptoms.

The CDC recommends those at higher risk of listeriosis to avoid eating meat sliced at deli counters unless heated to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit or until steaming hot just before serving. The agency also recommends calling your health care provider if you have symptoms of listeriosis and recently ate meat sliced at a deli counter.

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Health

Isabella Strahan shares she is cancer-free: ‘Everything is clear’

Isabella Strahan shared she is cancer-free after revealing she was diagnosed with a brain tumor earlier this year. — Isabella Strahan/YouTube

(NEW YORK) — Isabella Strahan is on her road to a full recovery!

In a new update on Thursday from a video on her YouTube channel, the 19-year-old daughter of “Good Morning America” co-anchor Michael Strahan shared that she is officially cancer-free.

Earlier this year, Isabella Strahan publicly revealed she had been diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a type of brain tumor.

In her latest vlog titled, “Goodbye Hospital,” Isabella Strahan shared that she was at her last appointment at the Duke Children’s Hospital & Health Center in Durham, N.C., to review results from her scans.

“It was a great, great scan,” she said with a smile on her face. “Everything was clear. Cancer-free and everything is great. I don’t have another doctor’s appointment until October.”

She continued, “I miss my doctors already and everyone who’s helped me because they’re all so nice… I feel like I’m just saddened today knowing that I wasn’t gonna be going back for awhile because I love them so much. So, that was my last hospital vlog until October!”

Isabella Strahan was a freshman at the University of Southern California when an initial MRI scan in October ultimately led to her diagnosis of medulloblastoma, a cancerous and fast-growing brain tumor that develops in the cerebellum, the back of the brain where movement and coordination are controlled, according to the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke University, where she is being treated.

Medulloblastoma is a type of malignant tumor that accounts for about 20% of all childhood brain tumors, according to estimates published in the Journal of Clinical Neuroscience.

The new update comes after Isabella Strahan shared on her Vlog last month that she completed her final round of chemotherapy.

“This [has been] a long journey but I made it,” she said at the time. “And now I have to recover and get back to my usual state, which is going to take a long time, but I’m done with treatments.”

She was also celebrated by friends, family and hospital staff over the accomplishment with a confetti parade at the hospital before ringing the bell to signify the end of chemotherapy.

Marking the milestone, Michael Strahan took to Instagram to celebrate the moment and gush over his daughter.

“@isabellastrahan you are a SUPERWOMAN! Ringing that bell finishing chemo and on your way!” he captioned a video of her ringing the bell. “You continue to fight with a smile on your face, strength, and determination. I am one proud Dad! Love you, Bella.”

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Health

38-year-old diagnosed with stage 4 cancer weeks after finishing half-marathon

Govind Sandhu, 38, is pictured finishing a half-marathon in Sydney, just prior to his cancer diagnosis. — @govindsandhu/Instagram

(SYDNEY, Australia) — Govind Sandhu said he felt he was at “peak fitness” when he came down with flu-like symptoms, including a fever, night sweats and body aches, in mid-May.

At the time he started feeling sick, Sandhu, 38, said he had recently finished a half-marathon in his hometown of Sydney, Australia, was training for an upcoming marathon and had just taken a vacation in Bali that was focused solely on health and fitness.

“I’m a CrossFit’er who runs marathons and ultramarathons. Everything from the moment I wake to the moment I go to bed is optimized for peak performance,” Sandhu, the head of global music partnerships at TikTok, told Good Morning America. “I don’t drink, I don’t smoke.”

Sandhu said he first believed his symptoms were a result of his intense training or the change of seasons in Australia, which was transitioning from summer to autumn.

Instead, five weeks after first experiencing a symptom, Sandhu said he was diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of cancer that forms in the lymphatic system, part of the immune system that helps protect the body from disease, according to the National Cancer Institute.

“I think back on it now, and I ran a half-marathon with cancer running wild through my system — and stage 4 at that,” Sandhu said, adding, “I literally thought I did everything under the sun to make myself not susceptible to something like this … you realize that this could happen to anyone.”

In stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the cancer has spread beyond the lymphatic system to one or more tissues or organs, according to the NCI.

Symptoms of the disease include much of what Sandhu said he experienced including fever, night sweats, weight loss and fatigue, as well as swollen lymph nodes.

As a 38-year-old male who was otherwise healthy, Sandhu had only one of the three most common risk factors for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which include older age, being male, and having a weakened immune system, according to the NCI.

“I wasn’t educated enough at that point of [thinking] if it could be cancer, or what are the symptoms,” Sandhu said. “I’m grappling with the fact that I’m 38 years old and I have cancer, which is still a bizarre thing to say out loud.”

Following his diagnosis, Sandhu said he began treatment, which for now includes six rounds of chemotherapy.

As he goes through chemotherapy, Sandhu is sharing his journey on social media to help raise awareness of cancer, especially among young people.

“It’s the last thing I ever would have thought would happen to someone like me, and if it can happen to someone like me, it can happen to anyone,” he said. “The reality is that anything to do with the big ‘C,’ cancer, the general population is clueless, and I was clueless, because anything that has to do with one’s mortality or disease is kind of not spoken about and shared widely … and I just think there’s a lot of power in talking about this.”

Sandhu said he also hopes his story helps empower patients to speak up if they do not feel right and for doctors to listen to patients and explore all possible causes of their symptoms.

He said he also hopes that by sharing himself going through chemotherapy and grappling with a serious cancer diagnosis he can help reduce the stigma of cancer and encourage other people going through a similar battle to not feel so alone.

“I don’t want people to feel alone on this journey, because, again, if it has happened to someone like me, it can happen to anyone,” Sandhu said. “I want people to know that what they’re going through, I’m also going through.”

He continued, “If this can help anyone that’s either about to go through it, has gone through it or is supporting someone that’s going through it, that’s an absolute win for me. I want to shout about this because I think it’s a really important topic.”

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Health

No significant risk of birth defects after pregnant women got COVID vaccine in 1st trimester: Study

Ulrich Baumgarten via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — Babies born to women who received a COVID-19 vaccine in their first trimester did not have a significant increased risk of birth defects, a new study found.

For the study, published Wednesday evening in the journal The BMJ, researchers used national public health registries in Denmark, Norway and Sweden to compare pregnant women who received either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine in the first trimester and pregnant women who were infected with COVID-19 in the first trimester to women who were not vaccinated or infected.

The team followed more than 343,000 babies born to women with an estimated start of pregnancy between March 1, 2020, and February 14, 2022, with each infant followed for a minimum of nine months.

A total of 10,229, or 3%, of infants had mothers who were infected with COVID-19 during the first trimester. A subgroup of about 152,000 infants, or 19%, had mothers who received a COVID-19 vaccine in the first trimester.

Of the more than 343,000 babies, about 17,700 were diagnosed with a major congenital anomaly within a nine-month follow-up period, but there was no increased risk of any major birth defect for either the infected mothers’ group or the vaccinated mothers’ group, including heart, brain, eye, face, breathing, limb, kidney, genital and gastrointestinal defects.

All mothers were evaluated by considering factors such as age, smoking during pregnancy, body mass index, socioeconomic status, COVID-19 infection despite vaccination, infant prematurity and other chronic conditions.

The authors also found no increased risk of major birth defects related to fetal deaths that could be attributed to first-trimester COVID-19 infection or vaccination.

Some limitations included excluding mothers from the infected group if they had a positive antigen test followed by a negative PCR test within four days. Additionally, there was no information available on how many doses of vaccines the vaccinated mothers received.

However, the researchers say the findings are a further indication that pregnant people should be vaccinated.

“Vaccination of pregnant women protects the women and the infants from adverse outcomes,” the authors wrote in the study. “Furthermore, we did not find any indication that vaccination against COVID-19 during the first trimester increased the risk of anomalies, providing additional evidence about the safety of vaccination in pregnant women. Overall, our findings support the current recommendations to vaccinate pregnant women against COVID-19.”

The study is the latest in a growing body of evidence showing mRNA COVID-19 vaccines — which Pfizer and Moderna fall under — are safe to receive before and during pregnancy and do not increase the risks for complications including miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth or birth defects.

In fact, some research has suggested COVID-19 vaccination can reduce the risk of premature birth and stillbirth, as well as help protect babies younger than 6 months old from being hospitalized due to COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently recommends that people who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant now, or who might become pregnant in the future — as well as who are breastfeeding a baby — receive an updated COVID-19 vaccine.

People who are pregnant are more likely to become seriously ill and hospitalized if infected with COVID-19, and more likely to suffer pregnancy complications including preterm birth or stillbirth, the CDC said.

Jade March, MD, a board certified family medicine physician and current integrative medicine fellow at UCLA, is a member of the ABC News Medical Unit.

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Health

How extreme heat can impact your mental health as high temperatures sweep US

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(NEW YORK) — Dangerously high temperatures have been sweeping across the southern, central and eastern U.S., leaving more than one-third of the country under heat alerts as of Tuesday afternoon.

Actual temperatures are expected to hit triple digits on Tuesday in several cities and states including Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Virginia and North Carolina while the heat index — what the temperature feels like — is expected to hit 104 in Dallas, 108 in Washington and 109 in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The effects of extreme heat on physical health have been well-documented with people at risk of heat-related illnesses including heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Experts, however, tell ABC News that heat can also have a serious impact on mental health.

“In the past, people have talked about seasonal affective disorder and mood changes, which is usually in the winter months … [but] the lack of sun and excessive sun both have mental health challenges and changes,” Dr. Asim Shah, a professor and executive vice chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, told ABC News.

Shah said excessive sun and heat can alter levels of serotonin — a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, behavior and sleep — as evidenced in past research. This may lead to changes in mood such as anger, frustration or irritability.

Dr. Nathan Carroll, chief psychiatry resident at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, in Neptune Township, New Jersey, told ABC News that mood changes, including irritability, may come from the fact that extreme heat can raise levels of cortisol, known as the “stress hormone,” in the brain.

This increased stress can in turn “make people irritable in the right circumstances,” he said.

High temperatures can also negatively impact the quality and quantity of sleep, which can raise levels of cortisol in the body.

Studies have also shown that extreme heat can exacerbate conditions such as depression, anxiety and suicide ideation. For the latter, a 2023 meta-analysis found that even a slight bump in the average monthly temperature can lead to increases in suicide and suicidal behavior.

Additionally, medications people are taking for certain mental health disorders can be worsened by extreme heat. One example is lithium, a mood-stabilizer used to treat bipolar disorder.

Carroll said that lithium can cause the kidneys to release more water, leading to increased urination and sweating, which can cause dehydration. This can also cause lithium levels in the body to become concentrated, which can be toxic.

He added that certain antidepressants, antipsychotics and benzodiazepines can decrease thirst sensations, so people aren’t aware they’re becoming dehydrated.

Both experts told ABC News that regardless of side effects, people taking medications should not stop doing so before speaking with a doctor.

“It does not mean that you cannot go out in [the] sun, it does not mean that you have to stop taking the medication,” Shah said. “It just means that you need to talk to your doctor [about] what precautions you need to take. Do you need to increase the dose or decrease the dosing? Do you need to avoid certain things? Just discuss with your doctor.”

These negative impacts may lead to increased hospital visits and admissions related to mental illness.

A 2022 study from researchers in Massachusetts and Minnesota found that days with higher-than-normal temperatures during the summer in the U.S. were linked to increased rates of visits to emergency departments for any mental health-related condition, including mood disorders.

Carroll said there are many reasons why hospital visits increase during extreme heat including the heat exacerbating mental health conditions and people taking medications for mental health conditions, which may dehydrate them and lead them to seek medical treatment.

“The third reason is the hospital is where many individuals who don’t have other resources go to get help,” he said. “So, if they’re trying to get out of the heat, if they’re part of the unhoused population, if they don’t have anywhere else to turn to, the hospital is a safe place, so they come into here also.”

Certain groups are especially vulnerable to the impacts of extreme heat including elderly adults, children and those with preexisting conditions, according to the American Psychiatric Association. However, anyone can be vulnerable to extreme heat.

To manage heat, experts said they recommend people stay in a cool environment as much as possible during high temperatures, drink water to stay hydrated and use stress-management techniques such as meditation to decrease stress levels.

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Health

In two years since the launch of 988, ten million contacts have been answered

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(NEW YORK) — Two years after the launch of the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, 10 million contacts have been answered, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

“That’s 10 million people who, often on the worst day of their life, had a resource to reach out to,” Hannah Wesolowski, chief advocacy officer for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, told ABC News.

Prior to the launch of the three-digit number, the services provided by 988 were available through the 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which had been active since 2005.

“In its first year, [the 10-digit Lifeline] served about 45,000 people, and to think that we serve that many people in less than a week now is sort of mind-boggling,” Dr. Tia Dole, chief 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline officer for the lifeline’s administrator, Vibrant Emotional Health, told ABC News.

In the months leading up to the launch of the new number in 2022, advocates were concerned that funding and staffing issues would hamper the lifeline’s ability to serve what was expected to be a dramatic increase in call volume.

The latest available data from SAMHSA shows nationwide answer rates of 88% for calls, 83% of chats and 97% of texts for the month of May.

“The average call is 14 minutes. To me, that type of impact is so significant,” Dole said. “[With 988,] you don’t need insurance, you don’t need to say who you are — and the person on the other end of the line instantly has empathy for you.”

Funding helps meet demands

Despite still imperfect answer rates, some advocates tell ABC News that robust levels of federal and state funding have helped increase capacity to largely meet demand.

“We’re two years into a system that needed massive infrastructure investment, new ways of thinking, new ways of partnering with other systems,” Wesolowski said. “We always knew that [building out crisis care] was going to take many years, and if we waited for it to be perfect, we never would have gotten it off the ground.”

The Biden administration funneled $1.5 billion into standing up the 988 Lifeline network, much of that ahead of the launch in 2022, to help address capacity concerns.

“It’s been just such a priority for the administration to really invest heavily in the [988] Suicide & Crisis Lifeline,” SAMHSA Administrator Dr. Miriam Delphin-Rittmon told ABC News. “There’s been $1.5 billion that has been invested into 988, as part of this comprehensive strategy to address the nation’s overall behavioral health.”

Building a sustainable funding future

In the midst of a contentious political cycle, Wesolowski said she’s “hopeful” that the outcome of the presidential election won’t substantially impact federal investment in the service — noting that former President Donald Trump was the one who signed the bill that designated 988 as the lifeline in 2020.

“We have seen even in the change of control of the House, [a] split Congress, that there’s still a pretty strong interest in funding this resource. We saw a modest increase [in funding] this past fiscal year, about $18 million more to 988, but in an environment where a lot of programs are being cut, that’s pretty good,” she said. “There’s strong bipartisan support.”

Delphin-Rittmon said that many states have been working with the federal government on building out the crisis care system, making state-level investments to help fund 988 and related services.

So far, nine states have enacted a 988 lifeline cell phone tax, similar to the tax in place to fund 911 call centers, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, and several others have allocated appropriations to fund the service.

In Washington, one of the states with a 988 tax, Levi Van Dyke is the chief behavioral health officer for Volunteers of America Western Washington, which fields 988 calls, chats and texts across the state.

“Sustainable funding for 988 in Washington state is, maybe, different from other states. We are seemingly in a really good place with having that 988 fee and support,” Van Dyke told ABC News. “In talking with colleagues at centers around the country, I always feel very fortunate because we are in a good position as far as those resources.”

Subnetworks providing specialized services

Amid the buildout of the 988 system, the lifeline has also bolstered specialized services for veterans, Spanish speakers, LGBTQ youth, and people who are deaf and hard of hearing.

Dole said there aren’t currently plans to add another national subnetwork, saying that extending the interactive voice response at the beginning of a 988 call poses a challenge.

“The challenging part is extending the IVR [Interactive Voice Response] — press one, press two, press three, press four,” she said. “When you add additional wording to the message, you delay access to care. And what that does is increase the chance of abandonment, which is people clicking out.”

Back in Washington, the Native and Strong Lifeline enables callers to speak with Indigenous counselors who can offer culturally specific care to Indigenous people. The state-specific line was created in response to disproportionate rates of suicide among Native American communities.

Delphin-Rittmon told ABC News that SAMHSA has received interest from other states about creating a similar line and that those conversations are ongoing.

Van Dyke said the process to create the line in Washington was years long, requiring specialized staff and training, but that he would love to see it offered in other states.

“We’ve seen how impactful and how important it is to have this dedicated service, and we would love to see that service grow and expand outside of Washington state,” Van Dyke said.

Building awareness — and when to call

Dole said that while the service is called the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, “I actually think of 988 as preventative,” noting that you don’t have to be in active crisis to call.

“If you’re in a mental health emergency, absolutely call us,” Dole said. “But if you are really struggling, if you call us — the earlier you call us, the more likely that you can be connected to services that will prevent something that is an emergency.”

She said that 988 staff can connect callers to resources to help them deal with nonemergency mental health issues, and that they hope to help prevent crises, as well as respond to them.

“988 is certainly for people in crisis, and it is certainly for people before they get into crisis, and their loved ones and their family,” she said.

Delphin-Rittmon echoed the sentiment, telling ABC News, “If people are struggling, it’s important for them to know that they’re not alone, that we are here to help. There’s compassionate, trained counselors available, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to help them with any type of mental health, substance use or suicide-related crisis.”

Looking ahead, the advocates say they want 988 to be widely known as the number to call for people struggling with mental health issues.

“I want 988 to be as ubiquitous in our culture as 911,” Wesolowski said. “I want every young person to not even hesitate, to not even think — if they are struggling, if their friend is struggling, if their parent or sibling is struggling — to feel like 988 is a natural place for them to reach out to and to know what they’re going to get when they reach out.”

If you are experiencing suicidal, substance use or other mental health crises, or are worried about a friend or loved one, please call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. You will reach a trained crisis counselor for free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also go to 988lifeline.org.

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Health

4-month-old baby dies in extreme heat wave: Tips to keep kids safe

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(PHOENIX) — A 4-month-old baby died in Arizona last week after suffering a heat-related illness while on a boat, according to police.

The infant’s death comes amid an ongoing heat wave in the U.S. affecting tens of millions of people across multiple states.

The infant, who was not identified by police, was rescued from a boat on Lake Havasu on July 5 and transported to a local hospital, according to authorities.

From there, the infant was taken to Phoenix Children’s Hospital, where they “succumbed to their injuries,” the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement released Monday.

The sheriff’s office said the investigation into the child’s death is “ongoing.”

A sheriff spokesperson told ABC News Wednesday the office is not releasing any further information.

On Wednesday, a spokesperson for the medical examiner’s office in Maricopa County, where Phoenix Children’s Hospital is located, identified the infant as Tanna Rae Wroblewski and said her cause of death has not yet been determined.

A GoFundMe page established for the Wroblewski family states that they were enjoying a “family day on the lake” when the infant “lost consciousness” and family members started performing CPR.

“Lake Havasu City Fire Department quickly arrived to take over life-saving procedures. Tanna was rushed to Havasu Regional Medical Center where they continued to work on her to get a pulse,” the fundraiser states. “She was then airlifted to Phoenix Children’s Hospital where they did everything in their power to revive her, but God had other plans, and took Tanna to heaven that night.”

Attempts to reach members of the Wroblewski family by ABC News were not successful.

In the Lake Havasu area, temperatures over the past week have hit triple digits, reaching as high as 120 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Weather Service.

As of Tuesday, more than 70 million people were under heat alerts in the West amid a scorching heat wave enveloping much of the U.S., but particularly the West Coast.

How to protect kids from heat

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children are more susceptible than adults to the health effects of extreme temperatures, including extreme heat, because they cannot regulate their body temperature as well as adults.

When it comes to extreme heat, children may suffer health effects including heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat stroke, according to the AAP.

Parents and caregivers should do their best to keep kids in indoor, air-conditioned areas in periods of extreme heat, and make sure kids are well-rested and hydrated.

Symptoms of heat-related illness to watch for in babies and kids include faintness, extreme tiredness, intense thirst, headaches, fever, nausea, vomiting, hyperventilation and skin numbness or tingling, according to the AAP.

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Health

Midwives can be an Rx to America’s maternal mortality crisis

ABC News

(NEW YORK) — Ashley Watts is getting ready to become a first-time mom.

“This pregnancy ride has been very fulfilling,” Watts, 32, told ABC News.

For Watts, this pregnancy journey is different. She has previously suffered five pregnancy losses, telling ABC News that she now suffers from hospital anxiety after feeling dismissed and unsupported by her doctors as she tried to navigate those losses and pursue motherhood.

When she learned of her most recent pregnancy, Watts decided she wanted to work with a midwife and dreamed of welcoming her baby into the world at a birthing center. The cost of midwifery care, however, was a barrier in allowing Watts access to the care she felt was better suited to her needs.

A 2021 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that midwife-assisted home births in the United States cost an average of $4,650. In many cases, insurance does not cover these births, according to the study.

After going to a consultation appointment with midwife Allegra Hill at Kindred Space LA, Watts learned of birthFUND, a new initiative by Elaine Welteroth, an author and former Teen Vogue editor-in-chief, that provides need-based grants to expectant mothers and families to use for holistic perinatal care and midwifery birth support services.

“I really don’t believe that quality, holistic, safe maternal health care should be seen as a luxury in one of the wealthiest countries in the world,” Welteroth told ABC News. “And there is something we can do about it.”

Welteroth launched birthFUND in April of this year during Black Maternal Health week, inspired by her own experience seeking care during her first pregnancy.

“I thought, how hard could it be to find a doctor? You know, I live in LA, I have resources, I have a great network,” Welteroth said. “And I just had bad experience after bad experience.”

Discouraged and nearing her third trimester, Welteroth found Kim Durdin, midwife and co-founder of Kindred Space LA.

“As a new mom, giving life in a country that’s in a surging maternal mortality crisis, I thought I should be able to ask questions about my health, about my body, about the kinds of decisions that I could make throughout the process, and midwives embrace that, they encourage that,” Welteroth said.

“I think I came out of my birth experience feeling this deep conviction to pay it forward,” she said. “I just felt like if there is anything I can do to help make sure that midwifery care is accessible to families who want this kind of care, then, like, that’s my calling.”

Dr. Laurie Zephyrin, a board-certified OB-GYN and the senior vice president for Advancing Health Equity at The Commonwealth Fund, told ABC News that there are a lot of misconceptions around midwifery care, adding that there needs to be a lot more education about the benefits and opportunities involved with using a midwife.

Midwives are also clinicians, trained to help guide people through the birthing process, she said. 

“There’s definitely data that shows that people that have a midwife during their care have improved outcomes,” Zephyrin said.

Zephyrin is one of the authors in a recent study by The Commonwealth Fund that analyzed maternal mortality data in the United States and 13 other high-income nations, finding that maternal mortality rates in the U.S. continue to far exceed that of other high-income nations.

According to the latest report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. fell in 2022 after three years of continuous increase. Findings by The Commonwealth Fund’s study suggest two-thirds of all maternal-related deaths in the United States happen postpartum and are frequently the result of high blood pressure, severe bleeding, infection and cardiomyopathy.

“One of the advantages of what we saw when we compared to other high-income countries is that there’s someone that comes to your home and sees you during the postpartum period, they check on you, they help answer questions,” Zephyrin said.

“And that continues throughout the postpartum period, and that leaves an opportunity so that things don’t fall through the cracks,” she continued.

For Black women like Watts, who are at a higher risk of dying from pregnancy-related complications in the United States, access to midwifery care can be even more critical.

Despite the decrease, the rate of maternal deaths for Black women in the United States remained significantly higher than other racial groups, the CDC report found. In 2022, an average of 19 white women died per 100,000 live births, while an average of 49 Black women died for every 100,000 live births.

According to the World Health Organization, including midwifery in family planning could help avert more than 80% of all maternal deaths, stillbirths and neonatal deaths. Zephyrin’s team found that the U.S. has the second lowest number of midwives for every 1,000 births, and that most countries with the lowest mortality rates rely heavily on midwives.

According to data projections by the National Center for Health Workforce Analysis, the United States is predicted to face an OB-GYN shortage, with an estimated 5,000 obstetricians expected to leave the workforce in the next 12 years. Making midwifery care more accessible can help alleviate the need for OB-GYN care providers while allowing expectant families access to holistic, perinatal care.

While approximately 3.66 million live births happen in the United States annually, there are currently about 12,650 registered midwives, according to data by the CDC and the National Center for Health Workforce Analysis.

“I really believe that people need to be educated more about what midwives can do and the opportunities for midwifery care in this country,” Zephyrin said. “Midwives are clinical providers, and they can provide this holistic aspect of care that’s really critical in what people want in our maternal health care system.”

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Health

Pfizer targets obesity with new once-daily Danuglipron drug

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(NEW YORK) — Pfizer announced early Thursday morning that it has selected its preferred once-daily modified release formulation of danuglipron, a move that it said was a significant milestone in the obesity drug’s development.

Danuglipron, an oral glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist, will undergo dose optimization studies in the second half of 2024 as Pfizer seeks to evaluate multiple doses of the formulation which they hope will inform the registration-enabling studies.

“Obesity is a key therapeutic area for Pfizer, and the company has a robust pipeline of three clinical and several pre-clinical candidates. The most advanced of them, danuglipron, has demonstrated good efficacy in a twice-daily formulation, and we believe a once-daily formulation has the potential to have a competitive profile in the oral GLP-1 space,” said Mikael Dolsten, MD., PhD., chief scientific officer & president, Pfizer Research and Development. “Following a thorough analysis of our previous Phase 2b data and trial design, we believe that with the preferred modified release formulation and future trial design optimization, we can advance a competitive oral GLP-1 molecule into registration enabling studies, with the goal of addressing the present and persistent medical needs of people living with obesity.”

Participants in the study so far have included healthy adults aged 18 years or older and the results thus far have shown a profile that supports once-daily dosing, which is consistent with previous danuglipron studies. Notably, there have been no liver enzyme elevations observed among the more than 1,400 study participants.

Danuglipron is an investigational medicine that is taken as a tablet by mouth and is currently not approved for use by health authorities.

Current popular FDA approved weight loss medications Wegovy and Zepbound are weekly injections.

Pfizer will still need to do large scale clinical trials to produce the data necessary to show it’s safe, effective and tolerable and then submit to FDA — a process which is still likely much further down the line.

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Health

Nearly 200 cases of dengue virus reported in New York and New Jersey: CDC

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(NEW YORK) — Nearly 200 people have been infected with dengue in the states of New York and New Jersey so far this year, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New York has reported 143 cases and New Jersey has reported 41.

Dengue transmission is typically common in tropical and subtropical areas of the world, according to the CDC.

Over 2,500 people have been infected in the U.S. so far this year, about five times higher than the same time last year. Puerto Rico currently makes up the bulk of those cases — with over 1,700 reported. The U.S. territory declared a public health emergency back in March.

The CDC issued a health alert last month warning health care providers of an increased risk of dengue virus infection this year. Globally, new cases of dengue have been the highest on record, according to the CDC.

Dengue viruses spread through mosquito bites. The most common symptom is a fever with aches and pains, nausea, vomiting and rash. Symptoms usually begin within two weeks after being bitten by an infected mosquito and last 2-7 days. Most people recover after about a week.

The best way to prevent dengue is to avoid mosquito bites, according to the CDC.

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