Beware the tick! Lyme disease on the march thanks to this mouse

So what is the most common disease spread by a blood-sucking insect in the United States?

Malaria, Zika, yellow fever? These mosquito-transmitted diseases don’t come close to the mighty black-legged tick and Lyme Disease. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that a whopping 30,000 cases annually.

And while more prevalent in the Northeast and the numbers are not huge, 30 percent of all Lyme disease is transmitted in Florida. The CDC reports that Lyme disease is the fastest-growing infectious disease in the U.S. with the number of cases reported annually increasing nearly 25 fold since 1982.

And now the concern is not so much the tick itself, but the white-footed mouse that is expanding its territory in the U.S. and is a carrier of the bacterium that is transmitted by the insect. If left untreated, Lyme disease can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system.

The website fivethirtyeight.com is known for its political acumen, but today it is reporting on rodents of the four-legged variety.

The white-footed mouse is the top reservoir of Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. And the cute little bugger has expanded its range to 41 states and is knocking on the door of Florida.

The white-foot mouse, which carries the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, is expanding its footprint in the U.S.

Scientists have linked an abundance of acorns to an increase in these mice and thus an increase in Lyme disease in people.

Kevin Esvelt, an evolutionary engineer at MIT, wants to edit the mice’s DNA to make them unable to pass bacteria and viruses to ticks.

“When engineering a complex system, you should always make the smallest possible change that could solve the problem,” Esvelt said. “For tick-borne disease, that means preventing the ticks from being infected by white-footed mice.”

Want more information? Check out the extensive report at Five Thirty Eight.com

(Featured photo courtesy of CDC)

From death’s door to People magazine for Loxahatchee flu girl

A Loxahatchee girl featured in the Palm Beach Post after nearly dying of the flu is now featured in People Magazine.

Jenny Spell came forward to tell her harrowing story to encourage people to get the flu vaccine. The 18-year-old  ended up on an ECMO heart-lung machine for five days in the fall of 2014 and eventually had to have a kidney transplant.

She is now enrolled at the University of Florida in the fall to study pre-pharmacy. People Magazine covered her graduation from King’s Academy.

“Jenny and I were happy to have had an opportunity to speak to People about her story,” her mother, Anne Spell, said.

“She faced tremendous suffering with both resilience and faith, and I am very proud of her. Together, she and I hope that her story will make a life-saving difference in the lives of others through flu vaccination and organ donation awareness.”

 

The teenager spent 241 days — about two-thirds of a year — at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital after going into cardiogenic shock, meaning the heart can’t pump enough blood to sustain your body. Her organs started failing one by one. Liver. Pancreas. Gall bladder. Kidneys. She contracted a deadly fungal infection and suffered an aneurysm in her abdomen.

“Jenny was the sickest patient I’ve ever cared for with the flu and probably one of the sickest patients I’ve ever cared for,” said Dr. Gerald Lavandosky, managing director at Pediatric Critical Care of South Florida at Joe DiMaggio.

To read the Palm Beach Post’s feature on Jenny click here.

To read People Magazine’s story on Jenny click here.

 

Butt lift doctor banned after patient dies

A controversial South Florida plastic surgeon is temporarily banned from performing any more procedures after a woman died undergoing liposuction.

Dr. Osak Omuleupu’s license was revoked by the Board of Medicine in April, but he has been fighting the state action on appeal. A judge now has stepped in to prohibit him from surgery until the matter is resolved, according to the Department of Health.

The Miami Herald has reported that Omulepu’s advertised specialty is liposuction and fat transfers to the buttocks — a procedure known as a “Brazilian butt lift.”

Health Department Spokesman Brad Dalton told television station News 6 in Orlando that it took a second motion Monday by the Department to impose conditions.

“We are waiting for a final resolution of that motion, but during this time Dr. Omulepu shall not perform plastic surgery procedures and shall have a board-certified physician present for any other medical procedures,” Dalton said.

Lattia Baumeister, 30, of  Illinois, was undergoing a cosmetic procedure Thursday morning at the Seduction Cosmetic Center in the Miami suburb of Doral when she experienced a medical emergency, according to police.

Osakatukei Omulepu is a Miami plastic surgeon accused of seriously injuring four patients in May 2015. His has been temporarily banned from performing surgery after a patient died last week.

She later died at  Kendall Regional Medical Center.

“Dr. Omulepu is absolutely devastated by the complication that occurred in this case,” his attorney, Monica Rodriguez, said in a statement. “This is the first patient death he has had. Although what happened has been widely documented as a complication of the procedure the patient underwent, it is not a situation any surgeon wants to have.”

In February 2016, the state issued an order of emergency restriction of license filed against Omulepu, who has been associated with numerous cosmetic surgery centers. The order came after Omulepu was accused of botching medical procedures of patients in 2015 that resulted in hospitalizations from three days to three months.

The order came after Omulepu was accused of botching medical procedures– such as not using the right anesthesia — on patients in 2015 that resulted in hospitalizations from three days to three months.

Steven Rosenberg, a Palm Beach dermatologist and a member of the Florida Board of Medicine that regulates doctors, told the Miami Herald that he was “frustrated” that Omulepu was still performing surgery because of the appeal process.

“We revoke a doctor’s license and the judges override it,” Rosenberg said. He noted that the appeal process can drag out while physicians continue to practice and potentially place patients at risk. Omulepu’s medical license on file with the Florida health department is listed as “clear/active.”

Omulepu is also a defendant in a medical malpractice lawsuit in Miami-Dade circuit court alleging that he permanently disfigured a woman who underwent a breast augmentation and a revision in 2015, the Herald reports.

Rosmery Diaz of Miami began vomiting blood and feeling extreme pain shortly after the first surgery. She was also bleeding and her breasts began to spread outward, the complaint alleges.

To read the whole News 6 story click here.

To read the whole Herald story click here,

 

Study: Infants should sleep in own room, not with parents

A new study is encouraging parents of babies to put them to sleep in their own room, finding they sleep on average of 40 minutes more a night by nine months of age than their counterparts sharing a room with at least one parent.

American Academy of Pediatrics surveyed 30 first-time mothers at Penn State to come to the conclusion.

“We know from prior research that babies experience brief awakenings overnight regardless of where they sleep,” said lead study author Dr. Ian Paul, chief of academic general pediatrics at Pennsylvania State College of Medicine in Hershey.

The findings could be a controversial, though. They fly in the face of latest guidance of the very group doing the study which recommended parents share a room — but not a bed — with their infants for at least the first six months.

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons/J.K. Califf.

“Our research suggests that parents respond to these brief awakenings, which interrupts both parent and child sleep when they are room-sharing, but not as much when the baby is sleeping in a separate room,” Paul told Reuters.

“This could set up a cycle where parents respond to the infant and then the infant grows to expect a parent response in order to get back to sleep.”

The guidelines to keep baby closer were meant to lower the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, which may occur while an infant is sleeping.

But the practice of having babies sleep in their own room might actually be safer. Infants were more than twice as likely to have unsafe objects around them like blankets or pillows that increase the risk of sleep-related deaths, the study found.

 To read the whole Reuters story click here.

Hey, it’s all protein. You unwittingly eat insects all the time

A friend once told me when he lived in the Middle East as a child, he would find cockroaches in his Cheerios and Frosted Flakes all the time.

He said at first, the cereal ended up immediately in the trash. After awhile, he’d just pick out the bugs and pour himself a bowl. Eventually, he just ignored the bugs. “Hey, it’s all protein,” the friend said, delivering the punch line of what was a joke disguised as a travelogue.

But the fact is, Americans eat bugs all the time. You may have just eaten some insects for lunch.

The Food & Drug Administration allows for certain levels of bugs and other contaminants in food because largely insects generally don’t pose a health a risk.

So what does the FDA allow?

Pasta can contain up to 225 insect fragments. One percent of your chocolate can contain insect parts. That cup of raisins can have up to 33 fruit fly eggs. Spinach can have up to 50 aphids per 100 grams.

And you don’t want to know about a 3.5 ounce can of mushrooms. Too late: one can is allowed to have nine maggots and 74 mites. Maggots aren’t exactly naked to the human eye, FDA.

The FDA has previously confirmed there may be up to an “average of 30 or more insect fragments per 100 grams” of peanut butter and an “average of one or more rodent hairs per 100 grams.”

You can check out the whole agency’s bug-friendly list by clicking here.

Americans are so grossed out about bugs as food, eating insects are used as crazed feats on shows like Fear Factor. In 2004, the Palm Beach Post interviewed Kelly Crosby-Heyniger of West Palm Beach who got a spot on the show by eating a 7-inch worm for her audition tape.

“I chewed him instead of swallowing, and I smiled really big for the camera to show all the dirt I had in my teeth,” she said.

For eating? “Yes.” For soup? “Yes.” For sandwich? “Yes.” (Photo by Quinn Comendant/Creative Commons)

Intrepid Palm Beach Post reporter Susan Salisbury has been all over the nexus of insects and food like DDT for years.

In 2013, she wrote about how the yogurt king Dannon was under fire by a consumer group to stop using, as Salisbury put it, “critter-based dye.” Insects are also part of lipstick, shampoo, and other products which often have a red-hued.

Salisbury also interviewed in 2015 Penn State University food science professor on how insects could be part of a nutritious diet.

Florida is known for its insects, and Floridians spend millions trying to kill many of them, whether it’s roaches, ants or termites.

Penn State University food science professor  John Coupland, suggested to start out slow and work your way up to bigger creepy-crawlies.

“I don’t think your entry-level insect needs to be a fried cockroach,” said Coupland, who is also a spokesman for the Institute of Food Technologists.  “Try and eat something that doesn’t look like an insect, to begin with.”

 He suggested suggests catching a cricket, cleaning it, drying it out and grinding it up.  “There is a huge range of bugs that can be eaten,” he said.

But, of course, just because bugs can be eaten doesn’t mean they should be crawling over your restaurant dish. Consumers should be very concerned with restaurants which have a cockroach problem, the Post reported in February.

Insects can be a nutritious part of your diet, Penn State professor says.

If you are bugged out about bugs as food, you are being a little American-centric.

CBS affiliate, WESH-TV, in Orlando notes that Spencer Michaels, reporting for the PBS News Hour, found that 80 percent of the world’s population eats insects as a regular part of their diet.

Scientists have identified  1,700 of the 1.1 million species of insects are edible. And yes, they contain lots of protein, hardly any fat and do not cause the types of illnesses caused by eating beef or pork.

 

Blinded by science: Women go blind after stem-cell treatment at Florida clinic

Three women reportedly went blind after a stem cell treatment at a Florida clinic.

What’s more is that at least two of the women had gone to the clinic because it was listed as a macular degeneration study on a federal database.

Doctors call the incident an example of how risky such clinics can be.

News reports from The Associated Press, The New England Journal of Medicine and others say that a clinic the experimental procedure occurred was in Sunrise, Florida run by U.S. Stem Cell Inc.

Age-related macular degeneration can rob a person of their central vision.

The women were injected in their eyes with a cell preparation derived from her own fat tissue.

Ophthalmologist Dr. Thomas Albini of the University of Miami, who examined the women, said one woman is totally blind and the others legally blind.  He said all suffered detached retinas.

“These women had fairly functional vision prior to the procedure … and were blinded by the next day,” Albini said.

The clinic’s method hasn’t been proven effective or tested for safety in people, he added.

“It’s very alarming to us as clinicians that somebody would do this to both eyes at the same time,” said Albini.

 

Dr. Thomas Albini of the University of Miami.

Elizabeth Noble, one of the women said she was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration that blurs the central vision. The former educator said she heard about the treatment at the clinic for a research study described on ClinicalTrials.gov, a website run by the National Institutes of Health.

The former educator said she heard about the treatment at the clinic for a research study described on ClinicalTrials.gov, a website run by the National Institutes of Health.

“It’s very easy to register studies on ClinicalTrials.gov and essentially use a government website as a marketing device,” Leigh Turner, a bioethicist at the University of Minnesota, told BuzzFeed News.

Noble went to the clinic in June 2015  where staff took fat from around her belly button, extracted those cells and mixed them with Noble’s blood plasma. They then injected it into both her eyes for $5,000, according to a story in Buzzfeed.

In an editorial accompanying the Journal’s report, stem cell expert Dr. George Daley, dean of Harvard Medical School, called the clinic’s treatment careless.

“This report joins a small but growing medical literature highlighting the risks of such wanton misapplication of cellular therapy,” he wrote. Providing such treatments for profit outside a proper research setting “is a gross violation of professional and possibly legal standards,” he said.

Buzzfeed reports this isn’t the first time experimental procedures at a clinic have gone awry.

In 2010, for example, a woman with the autoimmune disease lupus died after her own bone marrow cells were injected into her kidneys at a clinic in Thailand.

In 2013, the Florida Department of Health revoked the medical license of Zannos Grekos over the death of a 69-year-old woman. He had extracted material from her bone marrow, filtered it, and then infused it into the arteries feeding her brain. The woman had a stroke.

Treatment for age-related macular generation is at the center of the Medicare fraud trial in West Palm Beach of Dr. Salomon Melgen, who happens also to be tied to a bribery scandal involving a U.S. senator.

Read The Palm Beach Posts coverage of the fascinating Melgen trial by clicking here.

 

LSD for depression? It may not be worth the trip

A psychiatrist writing in the New York Times today is taking on the trend of using the hallucinogen drug LSD to combat depression, saying it is untested and possibly dangerous.

Who knew taking acid might be dangerous? Anybody who ever had a bad trip, possibly.

Richard A. Friedman is a professor of clinical psychiatry and the director of the psychopharmacology clinic at the Weill Cornell Medical College.

lsd
LSD is often taken in tiny paper tabs often decorated with a variety of images, in this case a heart.

He is empathetic that for the third of patients with major depression who get no relief from pharmaceuticals that hallucinogenics may offer some hope.  A recent psilocybin study claims that the mushroom-derived hallucinogenic relieves anxiety and depression.

Then there are the anecdotal reports about microdoses of LSD, as well a book on the subject.

Friedman says LSD is an unregulated drug in which users can’t be sure what they are even taking.

He says it is also too early to say that taking these drugs are not habit-forming, as proponents suggest. And studies of hallucinogenics have shown they can be debilitating behaviorally with bad trips or flashbacks in recreational users, Friedman points out.

 

lsd2
An illustration of LSD, Lysergic acid diethylamide.

Though Friedman doesn’t address it in his column, there is also hallucinogen persisting perception disorder that can affect users of LSD, MDMA, mushrooms and mescaline. One sufferer said he had been hallucinating that all trees sported human faces for two decades after one potent LSD trip.

“The bottom line is that we don’t know how safe or effective psychedelics are because most of the data have been anecdotal or from small trials,” Friedman writes.

Read the whole column by clicking here.

In the digital age, pediatricians tweak screen time rules

The American Academy of Pediatrics got some bad news for parents relying on the television or computer to babysit their kids: two hours of screen time may be too much.

TEENS_SOCIAL_MEDIA_ADV06_3
The American Academy of Pediatrics is tweaking outdated screen time rules in the age of 24/7 digital media – but it won’t be easy.

CNN reports that group is  tweaking outdated screen time rules in the age of 24/7 digital media – but it won’t be easy.

“It doesn’t make sense to make a blanket statement [of two hours] of screen time anymore,” said Dr. Yolanda Reid Chassiakos, lead author of the “Children and Adolescents and Digital Media Technical Report” and assistant professor at UCLA.

There is nothing cute about the toddler at the table next to you playing with mommy’s cell phone.

Babies under 18 months should be kept from all digital devices, the researcher said. “The TV should not be a babysitter,” she said. “It’s much better to talk to a child or read from a book.”

Children 2 to 5 years of age should be limited to one hour a day and older children should have defined restrictions by their parents on screen time, Chassiakos added.

Reports says teens spend 9 hours a day using media.

For healthy kids, an average day includes “school, homework time, at least one hour of physical activity, social contact and sleep — which is anywhere from eight to 12 hours for kids, said Chassiakos.

“Whatever’s left over can be screen time,” she said.

Read the whole CNN story by clicking here.

Attorney: Accusers silence finally broken by Trump’s denial of sexual assault

Fort Lauderdale Attorney Adam Horowitz knows how hard it is for victims of sexual assault – be it rape or unwanted kissing and groping – to come forward.

So the lawyer who has represented other alleged victims in civil actions in Florida says he is not surprised that women claiming they were sexually assaulted by Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump kept their stories to a close circle of friends for years, even decades.

He does not represent as of yet any of the woman who has accused Trump of groping or other sexual misconduct.

Attorney Adam Horowitz represents 20 women accusing doctors of sexual misconduct. ‘Patients have a right to know what their doctors are accused of,’ he says. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)
Attorney Adam Horowitz has represented victims of sexual assault. He says that Trump’s denial of abuse was the final straw for women to come forward with their allegations against him. (Photo: Palm Beach Post)

Trump’s accusers said it was the last straw when they saw him during Sunday’s debate deny he ever forced himself on any women despite audio tape of him bragging about it. Trump was forced to answer the question by the moderator, CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

“Nothing gets a victim more irate as the perpetrator denying it and making excuses for his behavior,” said Horowitz, who has no connection with the Trump accusers. “He was not taking ownership of his action and they also knew they weren’t alone.”

mindy-maralago-575
Mindy McGillivray of Palm Springs, Fla., says she was helping a photographer at a concert at Mar-a-Lago when Trump touched her. (Photo courtesy of Davidoff Studios)

The Palm Beach Post in an exclusive reported that Mindy McGillivray said Trump groped her 13 years ago while she was at his Palm Beach club Mar-a-Lago.

People magazine writer Natasha Stoynoff also came forward to say she was attacked by Trump at Mar-a-Lago during an interview.

The New York Times has a separate story about of two other women who say Trump made unwanted sexual advances to them in the early 2000s.

Trump’s campaign has said the women are lying and are part of coordinated effort on the media’s part to smear the candidate and tilt the election in the favor of Democrat Hillary Clinton. He has dismissed what was caught on audio tape as “locker room talk.”

“It may be an October surprise to Donald Trump, but these women have told other people before,” Horowitz said.

Trump’s campaign rounded up women who have made accusations against Clinton’s husband – former President Bill Clinton – of sexual assault, saying their voices should be heard. They say Hillary Clinton worked to discredit their stories.

Horowitz represents 20 women accusing doctors of sexual misconduct. The Palm Beach Post in July investigated doctors accused of sexually abusing their patients and how they were allowed by the state to keep practicing for years.

The lawyer said that many women have been victims of this kind of unwanted advance and that this election has laid bare this an ugly culture.

“Just this week on Twitter thousands of women are reporting their first instance of sexual assault. It is empowering to them to tell their stories,” Horowitz said. “There is strength in numbers.”

Yet, when the assault actually happens, the victim feels completely isolated and powerless.

“Sexual abuse is still a stigma and nobody wants that label attached to them,” Horowitz said. “At the same time, most of these women don’t think they will be believed.”

Context is also important because the person doing the groping is a person of power – an employer, a doctor, a person of standing in the community – then women must consider if coming forward will “interfere with their professional development or advancement in the workplace,” he said.

“You kind of just want to leave it alone – that is how some women feel,” Horowitz said.

He said the Trump accusers have little to gain by coming forward.

It is too late to press criminal charges against Trump and any civil monetary redress would be difficult because these incidences happened so long ago.

“They certainly are not in it for the money,” he said. “It is not a surprise that the women who have come forward are being attacked and being challenged.

“It is amazing that this is what our election is coming down to,” Horowitz said. “At the same time if it empowers women to tell their stories and if this exposes this culture than it is a positive thing.”

With thousands in attendance, Donald Trump holds a rally in Boca Raton on the eve of Florida's primary election at the Sunset Cove Amphitheater in Boca Raton, March 13, 2016. (Daniel Owen / The Palm Beach Post)
Donald Trump at a rally earlier this year in Boca Raton, March 13, 2016. (Photo: The Palm Beach Post)

Face-biting murders: New drug N-Bomb may have played part, experts say

Did the designer drug dubbed “N-Bomb” — said to be the deadliest to date — play a part in the double-murder and face-biting tragedy that occurred near Tequesta?

As suspect Austin Harrouff remains hospitalized following the alleged stabbing deaths of a Jupiter couple and the injury to a neighbor who jumped in to try to save them, some medical professionals say that Harrouff’s bizarre behavior may be the result of a relatively new super drug that some takers may think is LSD.

nbomb
The “N-Bomb” bath salts has been the most dangerous designer drug available.

READ MORE: Complete coverage of the face-biting killings

Toxicology tests on double-murder suspect Austin Harrouff were negative for cocaine, marijuana, meth and opiates, and further blood tests are being processed that will be able to identify chemicals used in flakka and bath salts.

Deborah Mash, a professor and director of the Excited Delirium Education, Research and Information Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said bath salts remain very hard to detect in drug tests.

That was the case with Rudy Eugene, who in May 2012 attacked a homeless man in Miami for 18 minutes, beating him unconscious and then chewing off most of his upper face. Police shot Eugene dead after he refused to heed their warning to stop biting the victim.

The N-Bomb bath salt — its name derived from its chemical acronym 2C-I-NBOMe — hit the market in 2010, and unlike other bath salts, it works on both of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, Mash said. Neurotransmitters communicate information between the brain and the body.

“High concentrations of serotonin has been shown in tests with lab rats to induce this type of gnawing,” Mash said.

Harrouff stormed out of restaurant on Monday night, and ended up near his father’s home in southern Martin County. He attacked John Stevens and Michelle Mishcon, who were lounging in their garage, with his pocket knife, killing both.

harrouff-01
Austin Harrouff, in a 2015 Suncoast High School yearbook photo during his senior year. (Staff / The Palm Beach Post)

Deputies came upon Harrouff, hunched over Stevens, biting his victim’s face to the point that it left substantial damage, according to Martin County Sheriff William Snyder.

Mash speculated that a drug like N-Bomb triggered an already underlying mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, in Harrouff resulting in a psychotic violent break.

“They get this stuff through the Internet. These new designer drugs are made in China, and they think they are taking LSD,” Mash said. “These are very potent drugs with other contaminants. These kids don’t know and they get this stuff and it is just dangerous and deadly crap.”

While other drugs, such as crack cocaine, have been linked to excited delirium — a type of violent psychosis — Mash said what appears to have occurred with Harrouff is a different kind of toxic reaction.

“Excited delirium people don’t bite,” she said. “It is only recently that we are hearing of this because of these new designer bath salts.”