Monthly Archives: August 2012

Hispanic Children Focus of New Study on Developmental Delay and Autism

Hispanic children have had a lower rate of autism than other children — although their cases tend to be more severe. Researchers had wondered — is there something protective about being Hispanic? Or is this a case of lack of access and lack of understanding of warning signs?

I think you can guess the answer. But proving it is generally better than guessing.

In one of the largest studies so far to compare development in Hispanic children and non-Hispanic children, researchers at the UC Davis MIND Institute wrote that Hispanic children “displayed more similarities than differences compared to non-Hispanics.” In the case of autism, they found that rates of autism were actually roughly the same between Hispanic and non-Hispanic children.

The study’s lead author, Virginia Chaidez, Ph.D. said the research filled in a piece of “large puzzle” and added “autism is a spectrum and it’s very similar across the board. So we’re pretty confident in promoting outreach and trying to encourage the Hispanic community to learn the signs very early in life.” Continue reading

Hantavirus Investigation at Yosemite Continues

By Lauren Sommer

Curry Village tent cabins at Yosemite National Park. (Jun Seita: Flickr)

Curry Village tent cabins at Yosemite National Park. (Jun Seita: Flickr)

State public health officials are warning 1,700 people who stayed in Yosemite National Park‘s Curry Village tent cabins since mid-June about hantavirus. Three people who stayed in the tent cabins this summer have contracted the illness and two people have died. There may be a fourth case as well.

A group of the tent cabins are closed as public health officials investigate the cases. The state health department had previously warned the park about the risk.

Hantavirus is a serious illness which causes flu-like symptoms. It can progress rapidly and has a 38 percent mortality rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control. There is no known treatment, although prompt admission to the ICU and oxygen therapy can be helpful.

The virus is spread through mouse droppings, says Vicki Kramer, Ph.D., Chief of the Vector-Borne Disease Section of the California Department of Public Health.

“If rodents do invade an area, it’s important not to sweep, not to vacuum because that causes the virus to become airborne,” she said.

Hantavirus is rare. There have been only 60 cases in the last two decades in California. Kramer’s department has been working with the park since two previous hantavirus cases in 2000 and 2010. Continue reading

Sick and Aging Prison Inmates; Current Care, Possible Changes

Inmate Sean Reese, a Vacaville prison hospice volunteer, helps a patient in the documentary "Life in Prison" by Lonny Shavelson.

The state Assembly is expected to vote by this Friday on a bill that would permit medical probation for county jail inmates. Under medical probation, inmates who are terminally ill or so physically incapacitated that they require 24-hour care would be released from jail.

A 2010 law already permits medical probation for prison inmates. If passed, this new law would extend medical probation to inmates at county jails. As the Bay Citizen reports:

The bill comes as the state’s new policy known as realignment brings tens of thousands of low-level felons who would have served time in state prison to county jails, burdening the county with costs of caring for very sick inmates.

Many of the prisoners who receive medical parole are bedridden, and officials say they pose no threat to others.

Since the (2010) law went into effect, according to Joyce Hayhoe, legislative director for California Correctional Health Care Services, 42 inmates have been approved for medical parole and seven have been denied of a total of 49 who have had hearings.

Journalist Lonny Shavelson gained rare access to the Vacaville prison hospice — the first prison hospice in the country — and produced this short, powerful documentary for the Center for Investigative Reporting.

New Requirement for Vaccine Exemption Passed by Senate

Baby cries after receiving a vaccine. (Dan Hatton: Flickr)

Baby cries after receiving a vaccine. (Dan Hatton: Flickr)

Update: Gov. Jerry Brown signed this bill into law on Sept. 30, 2012. 

California has one of the more lenient approaches for parents who wish to opt out of vaccinations for their school-age children. While state law requires that children must be vaccinated against various illnesses (think polio, measles, tetanus) to enroll in school, California parents can opt out of vaccines simply by filing a short statement stating that immunizations are contrary to their beliefs. It’s known as a personal belief exemption.

This week in Sacramento, the Senate passed AB 2109, a bill to make this exemption a little tougher. Under the bill, parents who don’t wish to have their children vaccinated must meet with a health care provider to talk about risks and benefits of vaccines. The provider can be a doctor, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, osteopathic physician, naturopathic doctor or a credentialed school nurse. The provider must sign a form and the parent must still provide a written statement.

“This bill does not take away the parent’s right to make a decision.”

Assemblyman Richard Pan of Sacramento, a pediatrician himself, sponsored the bill. He pointed to misinformation as a driver of parents opting out of vaccines. “Parents become uncertain. They’re not sure what they should do,” he told me today in an interview. “They’re being told their children should be immunized but at the same time, they’re seeing scary stuff out on the internet.” Continue reading

Quick Read: Elmo Inspires Kids to Eat More Apples

A new study from Cornell University finds that elementary school children were more likely to choose apples over cookies in school lunch lines when the apples had pictures of Elmo on them. My takeaway? I need to put Elmo stickers on beets so my fiance will start eating them.

It works for underwear: Just ask Spider-Man. And it’s “grrrrreat” for cereal, as Tony the Tiger can attest. So why not get Elmo to hawk apples? Turns out it could be good business.

Read more at:

Who Should Pay for Lung Cancer Screening?

A CT imaging system. (Derek K. Miller: Flickr)

CT imaging system. (Derek K. Miller: Flickr)

Looking for unique ways to spend your money? Straight outta Compton this week, an announcement: CT scans available at a local medical center for people who are at risk for lung cancer. Cost is $295.

Or, if you live near San Jose, you can walk into a free-standing imaging center that will charge you $349, but according to the center’s website, “check for promotional pricing.” The private imaging center started offering this test six years ago, even though the test was only validated by the medical community last year.

CT — Computed Tomography — is a type of powerful X-ray that makes 3-D images. It has been successfully used since the 1970s to visualize structures inside the body, including abnormalities like tumors. These exams are usually painless.

Only some insurers cover the scan. The rush to provide the test was reignited in June with the publication in JAMA of findings from several studies. There was good news, for sure: as previously reported the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) showed that lung cancer deaths could be reduced by 20 percent by screening people at high risk — mostly those with a serious cigarette addiction. Continue reading

Lead in Eye Cosmetic — and Other Kinds of Makeup

By Joanna Lin, California Watch

A girl wears kohl around her eyes. Similar products are known in other languages as tiro and surma. (Photo: New York City Health Department)

A girl wears kohl around her eyes. Similar products are known in other languages as tiro and surma. (Photo: New York City Health Department)

After a Massachusetts doctor found high levels of lead in an infant’s blood last year, hospital staff found no hazards in common sources of the toxic metal – paint at the family’s home, residue from workplace exposure, kitchenware and diet. Instead, they identified an unusual culprit: makeup.

For months, three to four times a week, the family had applied a Nigerian cosmetic and folk remedy called “tiro” to the boy’s eyelids. The amount of lead in the boy’s blood — 13 micrograms per deciliter — was more than double the level of concern set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A test revealed the cosmetic was 82.6 percent lead.

The findings, published earlier this month by the CDC, raise concerns about a product that certain immigrant populations often use but that health care providers rarely question as a source of lead exposure. The case is the first to the CDC’s knowledge of an infant being poisoned by a cosmetic like tiro, said Jay Dempsey, the agency’s health communications specialist.

Cosmetics are a little-known source of possible lead exposure
“We’re recommending (that) health care providers and workers should ask about eye medications and cosmetics when seeking a source of exposure to lead in children that have been diagnosed with elevated lead levels – particularly if they’re from an immigrant population,” Dempsey said. Continue reading

Quick Read: Lawmakers Weigh Boosting School-age Vaccines

Many states — including California — allow parents to opt-out of vaccines for their children simply by declaring their personal opposition. USA Today compares what’s happening in several states this year on the vaccine front. In California, Assemblyman Richard Pan of Sacramento, introduced a bill which would require parents to meet with a health care provider before opting out of vaccines.  The full Senate is expected to vote on the bill this week.

The move comes as health officials across the USA grapple with the resurgence of once-forgotten infectious diseases, including what could be the biggest epidemic of whooping cough in 50 years. Although all states require children be vaccinated before attending school, each has different policies about exemptions, with some granting waivers only for medical reasons, while others allow kids to opt out based on religious or personal beliefs.

Read more at:

Akin’s Rape Remarks Refuted by Science, Supported in Anti-Abortion Circles

Rep. Todd Akin in television interview Sunday, made remarks about rape and pregnancy.

I’m sure you’ve all heard by now about Representative Todd Akin’s statements about rape. (If not, you can watch here.)

In less than 30 seconds of a television interview, he articulated two viewpoints that have riled just about everyone — including many members of his own party.

First, he suggested that rape can be either legitimate or illegitimate. Second, he said that if a woman is a victim of the former, “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” and she will not get pregnant.

Today, in a new ad, Representative Akin is asking forgiveness, saying he used the wrong words in the wrong way.

While I had thought this was one guy with a crazy idea, the New York Times reports today that the idea rape cannot end in pregnancy has circulated in anti-abortion circles for more than 25 years. Continue reading