Mall Santa offers simple, yet touching message to autistic boy

Mall Santa offers simple, yet touching message to autistic boyAlthough the expression “be who you are” is such a simple one that can be said by anybody to anyone, especially younger children coming of age and finding themselves in the world, a Michigan mall Santa made those words go viral when he said them to an young autistic boy.

Reports from Detroit state that Grandville, Michigan mother Naomi Johnson commended the unnamed mall Santa, who was working at the RiverTown Crossings Mall. Johnson’s son Landon, whose age wasn’t stated, felt that the fact he is autistic would put him on Santa’s naughty list, but as it turned out, Jolly Old St. Nick didn’t think of Landon as naughty at all. The man’s simple message of “be who you are” was shared by Johnson on Facebook, and re-shared by close to 60,000 users as of earlier in the week.

“He went back to Santa (because) he wanted to tell him that he has Autism,” wrote Johnson. “He was flapping his hands (a classic feature of autism), all excited to let Santa know that he has autism.”

“Santa sat him next to him and took L’s (Landon’s) hands in his and started rubbing them, calming them down,” Johnson added, talking about the message and how it was conveyed by the mall Santa. “Santa asked L if it bothered him, having Autism? L said yes, sometimes. Then Santa told him it shouldn’t. It shouldn’t bother him to be who he is. L told Santa that sometimes he gets in trouble at school and it’s hard for people to understand that he has autism, and that he’s not a naughty boy. Santa told L to not worry and that he has been a very good boy being who he is.”

Scientists predict arthritis 16 years before the fact

Scientists predict arthritis 16 years before the factScientists from Oxford University in England have come up with a way to predict the chance of a person developing rheumatoid arthritis up to 16 years before the disease actually manifests.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition characterized by swelling of the joints and accompanying pain, as some proteins are altered through citrullination, a process that takes place during inflammation. This causes antibodies to turn on themselves, and that was the takeoff point for the Oxford scientists, who had tested for antibodies that seek out citrullinated tenascin-C, or cTNC. This protein can be found in high levels in the joints of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers.

Based on the 2,000 or so patients involved in the study, testing for cTNC has the potential to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis about half of the time, including a few cases that aren’t detected by conventional tests. It also has an almost-perfect (98 percent) chance of ruling out the disease. All told, this blood test’s ability to detect RA while still early could result in early treatment, reducing the impact of the disease at the very least.

“What is particularly exciting is that when we looked at samples taken from people before their arthritis began, we could see these antibodies to cTNC up to 16 years before the disease occurred – on average the antibodies could be found seven years before the disease appeared,” said study author Kim Midwood, a professor at Oxford University’s Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology. ‘‘This early detection is key because early treatment is more effective.’’

Over 350 San Jose babies, moms at risk of tuberculosis

Over 350 San Jose babies, moms at risk of tuberculosisA hospital in California is now working overtime to track down over 350 newborn babies and their mothers as they may possibly have been exposed to tuberculosis.

This comes on the heels of an announcement from Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose that a nurse had fallen ill to tuberculosis. The nurse is assigned to the hospital’s Mother and Infant Care center, and may have come in contact with at least 350 infants while ill. Still, hospital representatives said that not all babies who were born during that time may have been exposed to that nurse.

Santa Clara Valley Medical Center did not categorically refer to the current situation as an emergency, but stressed the importance of treating the 350 babies, as they may have been exposed to a nurse suffering from active tuberculosis.  The babies, and possibly their mothers, had contact with the nurse in question between mid-August and mid-November of this year. Tuberculosis is usually spread via coughing and sneezing.

“Infants have an immature immune system,” explained the hospital’s Dr. Stephen Harris. “They don’t necessarily localize the infection to their lungs. When a baby gets tuberculosis it can unfortunately travel into the blood stream and throughout the body.” Santa Clara County health officer Sara Cody added that this is a situation that is being taken seriously, as the babies “do need to be carefully evaluated and followed.”

Santa Clara Valley Medical Center’s chair of Pediatrics has recommended that the babies receive a daily antibiotic treatment for a six-to-nine month time frame. The hospital is in the process of sending letters to families of potentially affected babies, and has set up a hotline for any questions regarding the issue.

Missouri woman who refused cancer treatment to save baby’s life dies

Missouri woman who refused cancer treatment to save baby's life dies

Photo c/o Emily Lucarz/PEOPLE

A Missouri woman who refused to receive treatment for advanced-stage cancer in order to save her unborn baby’s life died Tuesday, three days after the child was born.

On November 4, 2015, Cara Combs discovered she had Stage 4 melanoma; at the time, she was 23 weeks pregnant with her fourth child. Doctors suggested that she have her baby as soon as possible, but in order to give the child a higher chance of survival, she decided to wait it out and hold off on her cancer treatment. According to Cara’s husband Roy Combs, she delayed her treatment in order to deliver her baby at 28 weeks. The baby, Shaylin Combs, was born on December 5, just three days before Cara had passed on.

“Heaven gained a new angel this morning,” said Combs family friend and photographer Emily Lucarz in a Facebook post. “Cara was an amazing wife, mother, daughter and sister. She sacrificed everything so her new little one could live on.”

Lucarz added in a separate Facebook post that Combs was willing to fight her cancer after giving birth, and didn’t have any idea there would be unrelated complications that would require her to remain in intensive care. “Cara ended up needing a liver transplant, but because of her cancer, she was not a candidate,” she added. “Her giving baby Shaylin a chance at life, was the MOST SELFLESS thing she could have done.”

The photo above shows one of the last, if not the last family pictures of the Combs family, taken days before Cara gave birth to Shaylin.

First-ever dengue fever vaccine gets green light in Mexico

First-ever dengue fever vaccine gets green light in MexicoDengue fever is one of the deadliest virus on Earth, affecting 400 million people per year. But it’s only now that a company will be releasing a vaccine against the disease, after it was cleared for use in Mexico.

“It’s a very important moment in the history of public health,” said Sanofi vaccines division head Olivier Charmeil, who added that the French company’s drug Dengvaxia as the “innovation of the decade.” He believes that this vaccine could be a “blockbuster” and can create more than a billion dollars of revenue for the pharmaceutical company.

Sanofi has been working on the development of Dengvaxia since 1995, having spent more than €1.5 billion (US$1.6 billion) in the process. Dengue fever affects 50 to 100 million people a year, according to World Health Organization figures. Although the mortality rate for the disease is lower than some other viruses, at 2.5 percent, the virus can cause an Ebola-like disease called dengue hemorrhagic fever, which has a much higher mortality rate of 20 percent if left untreated.

“We are waiting for more registrations in Asia and Latin America in the coming weeks,” Charmeil confirmed, saying that Sanofi Pasteur has requested authorization to release the dengue vaccine in 20 nations. Currently, several million doses are scheduled to ship out, with a stockpile for the European Union due early next year and one for the United States in 2017. Production is expected to hit 100 million doses in about two years from now.

Based on clinical tests, Dengvaxia is capable of making about two-thirds of people aged nine and above immune to dengue, with that rate climbing to 93 percent for dengue hemorrhagic fever. Hospitalization risk was also shown to decline by 80 percent.

Pediatrician group recommends early screening for depression, obesity, HIV

Pediatrician group recommends early screening for depression, obesity, HIVA national pediatrician group advised in a new set of guidelines that all children, and not just those with high risks of such conditions, should undergo testing for high cholesterol, depression, and HIV.

The new American Association of Pediatrics guidelines cover a list of conditions and illnesses that children should receive tests for from birth to the age of 21, as recent studies have indicated many health concerns experienced in adulthood could have warning signs early in one’s life.  The AAP hopes to prevent these diseases and conditions as early as possible to eliminate the need for medication or treatment going forward.

For example, suicide is now one of the top causes of death among adolescents, which has pushed the AAP to recommend children to be screened for depression from the age of 11 onward. And as the high rate of obesity in younger individuals is becoming more of a problem, the academy also recommended screening for high cholesterol for kids aged 9 to 11. Doctors suggest that younger children with elevated levels of cholesterol should undergo lifestyles changes, including, but not limited to exercise and dietary changes.

“We do see high cholesterol in kids as young as 9 or 10 — it’s not just adults anymore,” said Nicklaus Children’s Hospital pediatrician Amanda Porro. “In some cases, we need to take a deeper dive and have the family work with a nutritionist.”

As for HIV, the AAP recommends that young people be screened for the virus between ages 16 and 18. Any teens who admit to being sexually active should also be screened for HIV. Doctors will also be advised to be more proactive when asking young people about their sexual activity, given that one in four new HIV victims are aged between 13 and 24.

“We know from national surveys that adolescents are having sex and are not good about having protection,” said Children’s National Health System medical director Dr. Lee Beers. “They don’t think long term.”

Chipotle strikes again as 30 Boston College students fall ill

Chipotle strikes again as 30 Boston College students fall ill

c/o Robert Galbraith/Reuters

Chipotle is in hot water again, but this time, it might not be because of the E. coli virus blamed for previous hospitalizations after eating at the restaurant chain’s outlets.

Earlier this week, a spokesman of the restaurant said that it “(does) not have any evidence” to suggest that the case of food poisoning that affected 30 Boston College students was connected to the controversial  E. coli outbreak that government health officials have linked to Chipotle. Prior to the Boston College incident, 52 people in nine states fell ill to E. coli, with 47 of them claiming they ate at the Mexican restaurant chain before becoming sick.

As of Monday, 30 Boston College students, including eight men’s basketball team players had fallen sick to gastrointestinal symptoms after eating at Chipotle, though newer reports put that total at 80, or almost 30 more people than the previous count from the E. coli outbreak. Chipotle has since closed its Cleveland Circle restaurant in Boston, and had subsequently elaborated that the students fell victim to an isolated norovirus case.

Chipotle shares slipped by 6.4 percent on Monday, and are still taking a beating in the stock market, having fallen another 2.31 percent to $540.92 as of 2:38 p.m. The company also expects to suffer its first quarterly decline in sales since going public in 2006.

Imbruvica reduces death risk in new leukemia patients

Imbruvica reduces death risk in new leukemia patientsA late stage study on Johnson and Johnson’s and AbbVie’s Imbruvica showed a reduction in the risk of death and disease progression as opposed to chemotherapy in leukemia patients who had previously remained untreated. This has helped set the stage for the anti-cancer drug’s expanded approval.

A total of 269 patients aged 65 and older with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) were tested, as Imbruvica decreased death risk by an impressive 85 percent, as compared with chlorambucil chemotherapy. Three patients died in the Imbruvica group, as to 17 patients in the chemotherapy group. Currently, Imbruvica is approved to treat CLL patients who had received one therapy prior to the medication.

“If you move this drug into previously untreated patients, it looks even better than what we’ve seen before,” said lead author Dr. Jan Burger in a statement. He and his team will present the data at the next American Society of Hematology meeting in Orlando.

The main variable of the research was median PFS, or  progression-free survival –  this is the time it took for the cancer to worsen in half of each group’s patients. For the chemotherapy group, median PFS was 18.9 months, while the Imbruvica group had not yet reached this level. After a year and a half, 90 percent of Imbruvica patients had not experienced disease progression.

“In every measurable way it is so clearly better (than chemotherapy) that the data argue for supporting approval,” added Burger in reference to Imbruvica’s efficacy. Both J&J and AbbVie are hoping for a decision from federal regulators by the first quarter of 2016.

Results of the study were published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Global Blood releases more patient stats for sickle cell drug

Global Blood releases more patient stats for sickle cell drugFresh off an impressive initial public offering earlier in 2016 and the launch of its sickle cell disease medication, Global Blood Therapeutics announced new patient data on test subjects who were treated with the drug for one month.

So far, Global Blood’s GBT440 drug has been used on 30 patients, up from an initial six patients who were part of the company’s tests. The new results come from a clinical trial announced on Sunday, and still point to a promising future for the drug, which reduces sickled red blood cells in patients, as well as improvements in other key factors used to measure the disease. The data, however, also brought up new questions about GBT440, though these questions may only be answered when more patients are tested and more time is allowed for the tests to be carried out.

The clinical data released on Sunday involved 22 sickle cell patients who were divided into two groups, with one group receiving 500 mg of GBT440, and the second group getting 700 mg of GBT440. A third group of eight served as the placebo group. Median sickle cell counts dropped by 56 percent for those in the 500 mg group, and by 46 percent for those in the 700 mg group. Those in the placebo group saw an increase of 14 percent in median sickle cells.

The new decrease in sickle cell counts remained solid, but was considerably smaller than the 80 percent drop reported in the first six patients. Global Blood CEO Ted Love was quoted as saying that this was an “encouraging’ response, and that there was high variability anyway between sickle cell patients, based on the severity of their disease. No safety issues have been reported in conjunction with GBT440.

Chipotle remains bullish on “diarrhea burrito” despite E. coli flap

Chipotle remains bullish on “diarrhea burrito” despite E. coli flap

c/o Reuters/Andrew Kelly

Despite the massive press relations debacle Chipotle is facing following a series of E. coli outbreaks, the fast food chain has remained steadfast behind its so-called “diarrhea burrito.”

For the past few months, Chipotle has been under the radar, with federal authorities investigating a pathogenic E. coli strain, which has now affected 52 people across nine states, with 47 of these individuals saying they ate at Chipotle right before they fell sick. Affected states include California, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington, and as of this writing, the source of the E. coli outbreak has not yet been spotted.

Meanwhile, Chipotle shares have taken a huge hit in the stock market, losing almost 8 percent to $518 in extended Friday trading, after the company said that sales at established outlets may drop 8 to 11 percent year-over-year in the fourth quarter, thus marking its first such decline. Investigators have also cautioned that the outbreak may cover even more states, as local agencies continue working closely with the U.S. government.  Chipotle has pledged to tighten safety protocols, though the company, according to several reports, is still selling the “diarrhea burrito” despite its unpopularity among consumers.

Symptoms of E. coli infections include abdominal cramps, fever, diarrhea, and vomiting, and in few cases, even death.