So what is the world’s most dangerous animal?

Good, a media news publishing site, released a video recently with a question for us: What is the world’s most dangerous, deadliest creature?

Go ahead, think about it.

The world’s most poisonous is the box jellyfish, but its kill rate is pedestrian at less than 6,000 since 1955.

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This cute little guy is considered the most poisonous animal on earth – but he isn’t the most deadly.

 

But what about the deadliest?

It’s man, right? Good guess, but even with an annual tally of 475,000, man isn’t No. 1 either.

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Some animals considered super dangerous are not even close.

Sharks kill about 10 people a year. Crocodiles tally 1,000. Tapeworms, dogs, snakes and parasitic roundworms kill tens of thousands. Even the freshwater snail leads to more than 110,000 human deaths annually by passing on Schistosomiasis, a disease that bedevils Africa.

So have you come up with the world’s deadliest creature?

Guess what? It’s right now hanging out in your backyard.

Yep, it’s the mosquito, which recently has fostered the Zika epidemic after – of course – fostering the Michael Jackson Thriller of diseases, malaria.

It kills 725,000 people every year by sucking our blood and giving us malaria and other diseases it carries, according to Good’s video.

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Meet the world’s most deadliest creature: the mosquito.

Good’s video listing the world’s most dangerous animals – including man – ending with our friend the mosquito can be viewed by clicking here .

You can also check out their other videos on their Facebook page here.

Judge closes Montgomery guardianship hearing as millions are at stake

A Palm Beach Circuit judge closed the guardianship proceedings on Monday for renowned socialite Mary Montgomery, asking a Palm Beach Post reporter and photographer to leave the courtroom.

Montgomery’s attorney Theo Kypreos invoked a provision of guardianship law to close the proceedings that will delve into whether Montgomery is unable to take care of herself.

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Bob and Mary Montgomery

The Post requested a hearing in front of Circuit Judge John Phillips and presented case law but to no avail. He said he saw nothing that would supersede Montgomery’s request under guardianship law.

Montgomery was excused from the proceeding  on whether she and her multi-millions should remain in the care of her daughter. Her former administration assistant Hilda Santana has petitioned the court to be her guardian, citing Courtnay’s arrest in Minnesota where she allegedly tried to bite a law enforcement officer checking on her mother’s welfare.

Courtnay Montgomery was not present when the proceeding was closed.

The Post wrote about the fight this Sunday.

Montgomery is the widow of late legal legend Robert Montgomery. The couple have given away $100 million to causes and are considered the county’s foremost philanthropists.

The hearing is scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.

FAU study looks at post-partum depression

Florida Atlantic University researchers are looking at postpartum depression,  studying how a mother’s levels of a key hormone may be affected by the mental illness.

The Palm Beach Post delved into the issue of postpartum last October when profiling documentary filmmaker Jennifer Silliman and her film “The Dark Side of a Full Moon.”

The goal of the study by the Boca Raton-based university is to look at how breast-feeding, oxytocin and face-to-face interactions between a mother and her baby are impacted by depression and the mother’s level of hormone oxytocin.

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Florida Atlantic University has launched a study into postpartum depression, which effect up to 20 percent of women giving birth. (Creative Commons)

“We already know that pregnancy escalates oxytocin levels and that breastfeeding releases oxytocin, which have anti-depressive effects,” said Nancy Aaron Jones, director of the FAU WAVES Emotion Laboratory located on the John D. MacArthur Campus in Jupiter.

“In this new study, we are looking at oxytocin levels in pre- and postpartum mothers who suffer from depression to see how they differ from mothers who don’t have depression. Another novel aspect of the study is that we also are examining the oxytocin levels of the infant once they are born and how these levels change across development.”

Researchers are trying to understand how  levels of oxytocin affect the mother-infant emotional relationship as well as the baby’s emotional development and their emotional bond with their mother.

Maternal mental illness is more common than previously thought, estimating that approximately 10 to 20 percent of new mothers experience postpartum depression.

The study  has enrolled close to 50 participants with plans to increase that number to approximately 250.

“If depression in mothers-to-be is not addressed and treated, these mood disorders can negatively impact the child’s well-being and the important mother-child bonding process,” Jones said

“So many women don’t want to talk about depression in pregnancy or postpartum because they think that it’s saying something about their inability to parent, and it’s not.”

Which cities are vulnerable to a Zika outbreak?

South Florida remains a likely place in the United States for a Zika virus outbreak by the mosquito Aedes aegypti.

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A study shows South Florida, Puerto Rico and Hawaii are the most likely hot spots for a Zika outbreak this summer.

So far, the nearly 260 people who have gotten the illness in the United States were travelers to Latin America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A recent study in the journal PLOS Currents found 50 U.S. cities where the blood-sucking insect would be able to survive, maybe even thrive, in the upcoming summer months. Nine of those cities are home to 14 million people.

According to this Washington Post map, South Florida is a likely target for Aedes aegypti but even New York City isn’t out of reach. Other places such as Puerto Rico and Hawaii have already been identified as likely hot spots.

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The Washington Post map showing most vulnerable cities for a Zika outbreak this summer.

 

Researchers say the study provides only a “baseline risk” level for the country as public health officials gear up for the mosquitoes’ likely arrival.

 

 

By mid-summer, conditions across the entire southern half of the United States are suitable for Aedes aegypti to thrive, particularly in the Southeast.

The Zika virus has been linked to a range of birth defects, including a condition which causes children to be born with abnormally small heads and underdeveloped brains and Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can lead to paralysis.

“There is nothing about Zika control that is quick or easy,” Centers for Disease Control Director Thomas Frieden said earlier this month during a call with reporters. “The only thing quick is the mosquito bite that can give it to you.”
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Florida Legislature ends the tenure of state Surgeon General Armstrong

The 2016 Legislative ended on Friday – and so did the tenure of Florida Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong.

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Dr. John Armstrong is no longer Florida Surgeon General.

The Florida Senate declined to bring his confirmation vote to the floor and Gov. Rick Scott quickly appointed Dr. Celeste Philip, the department secretary for the Department of Health, as Acting Surgeon General.

Scott first appointed Armstrong in 2012 and reappointed him this year, but the Senate refused to confirm over questions about cuts to staff at the Department of Health, implementation of medical marijuana and his response to the growing HIV rate in South Florida.

There was also concern over children being dropped from the state’s Medicaid rolls and the disbanding of cardiac panel of renowned physicians that reviewed pediatric heart programs of hospitals. The move came after the panel reviewed the pediatric cardiac program at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach – a program that has since been shut down.

Scott lauded Armstrong in announcing Philip’s appointment, saying he made Florida a leading destination for cancer research and treatment and responded to epidemics like Zika.

“Even while battling cancer in recent months, Dr. Armstrong displayed unwavering determination to protect Florida families, and I truly appreciate his hard work,” the governor said in a statement..

Gov. Scott signs guardianship reform law to protect seniors

More than four years ago, concerned families went to lawmakers for the first time with their stories of how professional guardians were ransacking the estates of the elderly.

Groups such as South Florida-based Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship talked about how unethical guardians appointed by judges were isolating seniors from their families, over-medicating them and then taking their money through frivolous fees.

On Thursday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill giving the state its first regulatory authority over professional guardians who are appointed by courts to take over the lives of incapacitated senior citizens. The bill was one of 25 Scott signed into law.

The new law creates an Office of Public and Professional Guardians and requires the office standardize practices and create rules for professional guardians. It also gives the office enforcement power, including the ability to revoke a guardian’s registration.

It follows in the wake of a guardianship reform bill signed last year by Scott that imposed criminal penalties for exploitation or abuse of a senior in guardianship among other changes.

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Sheila Jaffe (left) and Natalie Andre (right), President of FACTS (Families Against Court Travesties), protest last month with a group of people about the state of guardianship outside the South County Courthouse in Delray Beach. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Guardianship reforms are not just happening in Tallahassee.

Following The Palm Beach Post’s series Guardianships: A Broken Trust in January on how judges are complicit in allowing the savings of seniors to be soaked by guardians and their attorneys, the chief judge acted.

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James Vassallo with his father, Albert. Vassallo claims professional guardian Elizabeth Savitt – wife of Judge Martin Colin – took money without court approval and failed to account for all of his father’s assets.

Palm Beach County Chief Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath transferred Circuit Judge Martin Colin out of the Probate & Guardianship Division.

Colin’s wife, Elizabeth “Betsy” Savitt, works as a professional guardian, compiling complaints from families for taking tens of thousands of dollars in fees without court approval. The chief judge required the south county judges to recuse themselves from her cases and instituted other reforms, as well.

 

James Vassallo’s father was in a Savitt guardianship. He said the new law signed by Scott could be the right remedy.

“Nobody was looking at the professional guardians watching what they were doing,” he said. “They are abusing their guardianship privileges.”

Dr. Sam Sugar, co-founder AAAPG, said the passage of this law is clear progress.

“We look forward to being intimately involved – as promised in the legislation – in the development of rules and regulations of this new department as advocates for victims of abusive guardianships,” he said.

 

 

Indicted Delray Beach doctor is focus of $4.8M whistleblower lawsuit

A newly unsealed whistleblower lawsuit alleges insurance giant Humana knew that a Delray Beach doctor for seven years bilked the government through fraudulent Medicare billing for $4.8 million, according to a report this week by the Center for Public Integrity that was published by NPR.

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A billing practice called a “risk score” is what a Delray Beach doctor used to perpetrate fraud, according to a whistleblower lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims that Humana  – which operates some of the nation’s largest private Medicare health plans –  did little to curb the practice even though it could harm patients.

The Center for Public Integrity is a nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative news organization.

The whistleblower suit was filed by South Florida physician Mario M. Baez and accuses Humana and his former business partner, Dr. Isaac K. Thompson, of Delray Beach, in engaging in a lucrative billing fraud scheme that lasted for years.

In Thompson’s case, Humana paid 80 percent of the money it received to the doctor and retained the rest. Prosecutors charged that fraudulent diagnoses submitted by Thompson between January 2006 and June 2013 generated overpayments of $4.8 million.

Thompson was indicted early last year on health care fraud charges and has indicated he would plead guilty.

The whistleblower suit was filed in October 2012 but remained under a federal court seal until Feb. 26.

Humana, which had no comment, is based out of  Louisville and covers more than 3 million elderly patients in its Medicare Advantage plans nationwide. At question in the whistleblower suit is a billing formula called a risk score that pays higher rates for sicker patients.

To read the whole story by the Center for Public Integrity click here.

FAU study first to look at lack of paid sick leave, medical care delays

A new study by Florida Atlantic University is the first to look at the relationship between paid sick leave benefits and delays in medical care in the United States that makes our health care more expensive and less efficient.

The results again puts the U.S. behind other highly ranked countries.

The study,  published in the March issue of Health Affairs, found lack of medical care for both working adults and their family members. The study, done in conjunction with Cleveland State University, found that workers without paid sick leave were three times more likely to delay medical care than were workers with paid sick leave.

 

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Sick at work in America? Good luck. In the U.S., there are 49 million employees without sick leave. (Photo: Creative Commons)

They were also three times more likely to forgo needed medical care altogether. The lowest-income group of workers were at highest risk of delaying medical care.

“Paid sick leave is an important employer-provided benefit that helps workers and their dependents receive prompt preventive or acute medical care, recuperate from illness faster, and avert more serious illness,” said LeaAnne DeRigne, lead author of the study and associate professor in the School of Social Work at FAU.

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FAU researcher LeaAnne DeRigne says the lack of mandated paid sick leave leads to more complicated and expensive health outcomes down the line.

She said the results from the study contradict public health goals to reduce the spread of illness.

“Policymakers should consider the potential public health implications of their decisions when contemplating guaranteed sick leave benefits,” she said.

The U.S.  lags behind 22 other highly ranked countries in terms of economic and human development when it comes to mandating employers to provide paid sick leave. Only Connecticut, California, Massachusetts and Oregon – along with a few dozen municipalities mandate paid sick leave as an employee benefit.

That leaves 49 million U.S. workers without paid sick leave, which in the long run contributes to higher health costs for all when conditions and illness go untreated.

“The personal health care consequences of delaying or forgoing needed medical care can lead to more complicated and expensive health conditions,” DeRigne said.

FAU’s main campus is located in Boca Raton.

 

Marriage annulment upheld in controversial guardianship case

In a decision underscoring the great power of the courts over seniors in guardianships, an appellate court in West Palm Beach upheld the annulment of a couple’s marriage in a controversial case that has already set legal precedent.

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Glenda Martinez Smith smiles as her husband Alan Smith opens his eyes while waiting for a doctor’s appointment last year. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

A panel of judges on the 4th District Court of Appeal ruled 2-1 to uphold the annulment of the marriage of Glenda Martinez and J. Alan Smith.

The Palm Beach Post wrote about the case last April after Martinez won the right to care for Smith as he had specified in his pre-need directives before falling ill. The case showed how incapacitated seniors’ legal rights were taken away in guardianships.

Even though Martinez succeeded in ousting the guardian last year, she was not able to convince the 4th DCA to undo Palm Beach County Circuit Judge David French’s ruling to annul the couple’s marriage.

Judge David French listens to arguments at the South County Courthouse Thursday, May 21, 2015, during a hearing surrounding the guardianship of James Vassallo's father. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)
Judge David French listens to arguments in a case at the South County Courthouse. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)

The majority of the 4th DCA appellate panel – Judges Dorian Damoorgian and Melanie May – said the couple married without the approval of French as stipulated by the guardianship of Smith.

Martinez’s attorney Jennifer Carroll argued that the requirement flew in the face of state statute, but Damoorgian said in the written ruling that a court could indeed make such a requirement.

Judge Martha Warner, however, in a 8-1/2 page dissenting opinion, said the right to marry is a fundamental right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The dissent possibly sets up the case for the Florida Supreme Court to look at the issue.

Warner noted evidence of how Martinez and Smith fell in love, vacationed together and how he named her his health care surrogate before a 2010 car accident sent his health on the decline. Warner said the only restriction put on Smith by the guardianship was the right to enter into contracts regarding finances.

Warner also noted how Martinez opposed court-appointed guardian John Cramer’s decision to put Smith in a nursing home, where Martinez felt Smith received sub-par care and how a court-appointed attorney to represent Smith failed him.

The 4th DCA eventually ruled that Martinez – not Cramer – was Smith’s designated health surrogate. She brought him home last year and takes care of him to this day

“I do not believe due process of the ward was sufficiently protected,” Warner wrote, adding that the Legislature’s intent in guardianship is to protect the rights of the ward, not infringe upon them.

“This has not happened in this case,” the judge went on. “Instead, this frail gentlemen has been deprived of his fundamental right to marry, in proceedings which violated his fundamental rights to due process and without a consideration of his best interest.”

In January, The Post published its investigative series into guardianship of seniors and the role of judges. One judge in particular, Martin Colin, is married to guardian and his friend, French, heard the majority of her cases. As a result, Chief Judge Jeffrey Colbath transferred Colin and instituted a plan to train court personnel on probate matters, among other reforms.

Senate holds fate of Florida Surgeon General

It’s been a tough year for Florida Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong.

Gov. Rick Scott’s head of the Department of Health is having trouble getting reconfirmed.

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Florida Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong

A Senate’s Ethics & Elections Committee is scheduled Tuesday to consider again the confirmation after a previous hearing was postponed partly out of fear Armstrong didn’t have enough votes.

It looks a bit better for him today as in the last week some medical groups have offered a show of support. Of particular concern among  AIDS groups  was Armstrong’s response to a spike in HIV cases in the Sunshine State. Armstrong has made HIV prevention a priority issue in the last few months.

He has also received questions about a drop in the number of people receiving services from county health departments as staff has been slashed.

Armstrong narrowly escaped an earlier panel – the Senate Health Policy Committee – when it voted 5-4 to approve the surgeon general’s nomination

Late last year, Armstrong announced he had colon cancer, undergoing surgery. Gov.  Scott issued a statement of support on Monday:

“Dr. John Armstrong is a fighter. Not only is he currently fighting against colon cancer, but he has continued to fight for the well-being of everyone in our state – whether it is against epidemics like Ebola and Zika, or illnesses like cancer or AIDS that are still affecting far too many in our state.”

The 2016 session is the final opportunity for confirmation or he will be forced to step down. Armstrong was appointed in 2012.