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(Courtesy: Ariel Mendoza) Ariel Mendoza, 24, of St. Paul, Minnesota, shared a photo project revealing the most upsetting comments people made to her since she lost her son.(ST. PAUL, Minn.) -- A woman who lost her newborn son is spotlighting what she feels are the most unintentionally upsetting comments that people have made to her.

Ariel Mendoza of St. Paul, Minnesota, shared the photo series onto her blog and Facebook page, A Rainbow From Onyx, where it received over 4,000 shares. Mendoza told ABC's Good Morning America that she wants to create a platform so those who experienced the loss of a child won't feel so alone.

"A lot of people seem to really resonate with the comments -- it's bittersweet," Mendoza said. "You won't often read an entire article but you will look at a picture. That's why I decided to make it visual rather than just words."

Mendoza, 24, told GMA that earlier this year, she and her boyfriend Will were surprised to learn that they were expecting a child, considering that Mendoza had been diagnosed with secondary infertility.

Before becoming pregnant with her son, Onyx, Mendoza had experienced two miscarriages, she said.

"I didn't want to get attached, but I didn't want to not enjoy him or the pregnancy because of that fear," Mendoza told GMA.

Mendoza gave birth to Onyx after 20 weeks and 3 days pregnant. His lungs were not fully developed at birth and doctors were unable to save him, she said.

"I never really grieved my first two miscarriages," Mendoza said. "I kind of just bottled up my feelings and moved on with my life, but I wanted him [Onyx] to be remembered."

Following her son's passing, Mendoza launched A Rainbow From Onyx -- where she educates people on what not to say to parents who are in mourning.

Using a letter board, Mendoza featured the comments and photographed them for her website.

"Death in general is considered really taboo especially when people typically don't know what to say," Mendoza said. "The other part is making themselves feel comfortable when they feel uncomfortable, and that how the comments come out."

Mendoza said she hopes her blog and Facebook pages become an online community for grieving parents.

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Mom reveals the most heartbreaking comments people have made to her since she lost her baby

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iStock/ThinkstockBy Dr. Tambetta Ojong


(NEW YORK) -- Opening the window shades in the morning may not only help the growth of indoor plants or get skin a little dose of vitamin D -- it might also lower amounts of living bacteria that thrive in the dark.

An abundance of sunlight was significantly associated with lower amounts of a certain types of bacteria, a new study in the Journal of the Microbiome said.

The mix of bacteria that exists in a space or in a living being is called its microbiome. In dark rooms, about 12 percent of bacteria, on average, were able to reproduce, the researchers at the University of Oregon found. But in sunlight, only 6.8 percent thrived. That was down to 6.1 percent for bacteria exposed to UV light.

"When designing buildings, we should take into account and understand how the microbiome may be selected, based on the design," Dr. Ashkaan Fahimipour, a post-doctoral researcher in biology and built environment at the University of Oregon said in an interview with ABC News. "This could actually have an impact on health."

Sunlight is a central component of architectural design, long considered a way to fight off the spread of pathogens. Exposure to light at specific wavelengths can inactivate many microorganisms and reduce microbial dust communities.

In this study, the researchers constructed eleven identical climate-control miniature rooms, mimicking real buildings, and added dust collected from residential homes. They then applied three different glazing treatment to each window so that either visible sunlight, UV light or no light would pass through the windows.

After 90 days, the research team collected dust from each tiny house and analyzed the abundance and viability of the bacteria. A very different, smaller community of bacteria existed with more light exposure.

Fahimipour says that just as certain weeds are more likely to grow on a front lawn than in a rainforest, the diversity of microorganisms is tremendously different in varied environments.

This study can help inform building designs in the future, to make sure there's a mix in their microbiomes.

The study does not specify which bacteria may lead to negative health outcomes; the point is that light creates a wide and different type of microbiome, while decreasing certain type of bacteria observed in dark settings.

There were some limitations to the study, however. Differences in architectural and geographical features -- the very things that can produce lower or higher amounts of light and may affect some of the results in different types of buildings -- weren’t taken into account, since they used a standard design.

They also did not address the amount of available water, or how a more condensed environment can lead to some bacteria being pre-selected.

Old folk wisdom says that daylight disinfects, but what the study did not address was what other factors might be involved, and how this shift in dust microbiome could affect different settings like hospitals or nursing homes.

Of course, microorganisms are everywhere and most of the time, they pose no harm. But it is time to begin to understand how choices in building design can affect some bacteria -- and how controlling for the growth of bacteria might improve health -- whether that's in the living room or the hospital room.


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iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- Fertility rates have declined in the U.S. and women are giving birth for the first time later and later, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The results came after researchers from the National Center for Health Statistics analyzed birth data compiled by the National Vital Statistics System from 2007 to 2017 that included breakdowns by race and geography.

The CDC defines "fertility rate" as "the total number of births in an area to the population of women most at risk of childbearing," typically women aged 15 through 44.

Total fertility rates fell both in rural and in urban settings. In rural counties, rates declined 12 percent, in small or medium metro counties, rates fell 16 percent and major metros saw a drop of 18 percent.

In 2007, rural rates were about 5 percent higher than in metro counties, a difference that increased to 14 percent by 2017, the data showed. Rural rates in 2017 were about 10 percent higher than more medium-sized areas.

When comparing different ethnic groups, the researchers found the largest decrease among Hispanic women -- rates fell 26 percent in rural areas, 29 percent in medium-sized areas and 30 percent in big cities.

The average age of new mothers in rural areas increased to 24.5 years from 23.2, while in medium-sized regions it rose to 25.8 years from 24.3 and in major metros it climbed to 27.7 years from 25.9.

Non-Hispanic black mothers in large metros experienced the largest increase in age among different ethnicities -- a rise to 25.6 years from 23.2 years.

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Courtesy Kate O'Neill(NEW YORK) -- Madelyn Linsenmeir was a mother, sister and friend, who was "hilarious, and warm, and fearless, and resilient." She was also an opioid addict.

Linsenmeir was a junkie for 12 years and, at what her sister said were some of her darkest points, she would sometimes panhandle for money. She lost custody of her young son because of her disease.

On Oct. 7 the 30-year-old died in the hospital while in police custody, according to her sister, Kate O'Neill.

O’Neill does not want Linsenmeir to be remembered for her addiction. Her surprisingly honest obituary she wrote for a local Vermont paper is getting widespread attention for its warmth and candor.

“It is impossible to capture a person in an obituary, and especially someone whose adult life was largely defined by drug addiction. To some, Maddie was just a junkie — when they saw her addiction, they stopped seeing her. And what a loss for them. Because Maddie was hilarious, and warm, and fearless, and resilient,” O'Neill wrote.

She explained how Linsenmeir loved her son Ayden and how she “sang rather than spoke to him, filling his life with song.”

“After having Ayden, Maddie tried harder and more relentlessly to stay sober than we have ever seen anyone try at anything. But she relapsed and ultimately lost custody of her son, a loss that was unbearable,” she continued.

O'Neill said the obituary honored her sister but also spoke about the realities of drug addiction -- which she hopes others can learn from.

“I want us to have empathy for people in their darkness whether that’s Maddie panhandling in the grocery store parking lot, whether it’s a junkie passed out on the street,” O’Neill told ABC News. “Those people are also Maddie.”

The obituary has since gone viral. But there have also been critics.

Brandon del Pozo, the police chief in Burlington, Vermont, where Linsenmeir and her family were raised, wrote on Facebook that he has “a problem” with it.

“Why did it take a grieving relative with a good literary sense to get people to pay attention for a moment and shed a tear when nearly a quarter of a million people have already died in the same way as Maddie as this epidemic grew?” del Pozo said in his post.

“Ask the cops and they will tell you: Maddie's death was nothing special at all. It happens all the time, to people no less loved and needed and human,” he added, posting a series of steps that the Burlington police department is taking to address drug addiction.

O'Neill said the outpouring of support for her sister has “been incredible and it’s been bittersweet.”

“We knew we weren’t alone and I think the part that’s bitter sweet about this is that it really is concrete evidence of the number of people that are affected by this disease. Our grief is so intense and so personal but it is not unique,” O’Neill said.

She has taken the negative feedback in stride.

“This disease needs a face and Maddie is just one face,” she said.

O'Neill asks those who are interested in stopping opioid addiction to donate to the Turning Point Center, “a place where Maddie spent time and felt supported.”

Gary De Carolis, the center's executive director, said the staff has been “overwhelmed” with donations after the obituary was published.

“We’ve never experienced anything like this in the history of the center,” De Carolis told ABC News.

De Carolis said he applauds the courage of Linsenmeir's family to be so forthright about her disease.

“The thing for me, the family … they had the courage to tell Maddie’s story and put a face on the scourge of addiction. That will change how America and the world view people who are struggling with addiction. We’re all people first, and some of us unfortunately have to deal with this,” De Carolis said.

The exact cause of Linsenmeir's death is still unknown. O'Neill said drugs may not have killed her, noting that she was in police custody at the time. Linsenmeir's death could very well not be counted in a government statistic. Just like so many others who die of overdoses, O'Neill said.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- There are now 62 confirmed reports of acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, across 22 states in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As of Sept. 20, the CDC had confirmed 38 cases in 16 states, which aren't required to report AFM cases to the CDC. This year's numbers are similar to 2016 and 2014.

Since 2014, 386 cases have been confirmed, the CDC said on Tuesday. Currently, 127 patients are under investigation.

The average age of those afflicted is 4, and 90 percent of those with AFM are 18 or younger, the CDC said.

Acute flaccid myelitis is a rare condition that affects the spinal cord and can cause partial paralysis. It mostly afflicts children and young adults and can be caused by toxins in one's environment, genetic disorders or viruses such as poliovirus, West Nile virus or adenovirus.

Symptoms of AFM are similar to a severe respiratory illness along with a fever, but those progress into neurological symptoms. Some who contract AFM will feel weakness in their arms or legs, a loss of muscle tone or slower reflexes. The most severe symptom is respiratory failure.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump administration said Monday it plans to require drug makers to start disclosing its prices in television advertisements, a move that prompted immediate pushback from the pharmaceutical industry and raised questions about whether that would translate to lower drug costs for consumers.

The proposed new rule says anyone selling most drugs paid for by Medicare or Medicaid would have to divulge a "list price" in television ads using "legible text." That means the price would have to be printed on the screen big enough to read, and not just read quickly read by a fast-talking announcer.

The spike in drug costs for U.S. consumers, particularly seniors, was a 2016 campaign issue for President Donald Trump. In a cabinet meeting last year, the president accused the industry of getting away with "murder." Trump's health secretary, Alex Azar, is a former executive at pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Co., which faced criticism during his tenure for raising prices for its insulin products.

Azar on Monday said the drug industry "remains resistant to providing real transparency" on pricing.

"Patients deserve to know what a given drug could cost when they’re being told about the benefits and risks it may have," Azar said in a speech Monday at a forum hosted by the National Academy of Medicine. "They deserve to know if the drug company has pushed their prices to abusive levels. And they deserve to know this every time they see a drug advertised to them on TV."

List price is typically considered the sticker price of a drug and doesn't take into account rebates or discounts. The Health and Human Services Department says the rule would apply to any company advertising on television for prescription drug and biological products paid for by Medicare or Medicaid with a list price greater than $35 for a month's supply or usual course of therapy. The agency says the 10 most commonly advertised drugs have list prices ranging from $535 to $11,000 per month or usual course of therapy.

The new rule isn't final. The proposal will be released for public comment, and those comments will be taken into consideration before a final rule is enforced.

The administration says this plan could affect almost every American. Patient costs are typically calculated using the list price, even if a person has insurance. And some 47 percent of Americans have high-deductible health plans, according to HHS, which require that a patient pay the list price until their insurance kicks in.

Senior officials at the Department Health and Human Services said they don't believe they would face challenges in court by drugmakers claiming the rule violates their First Amendment rights because there are other, similar requirements on advertisements. But it's likely that drug companies will use its deep pockets to fight back. Pharmaceutical companies contend that life-changing drugs typically require years of expensive research -- work that won't be done if there isn't adequate compensation.

Holly Campbell, a spokeswoman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a trade association known as "PhRMA," said the group is still digesting the announcement but she suggested industry executives aren't happy.

"We think there is a better way to provide patients with medicine cost information," she said.

But whether the plan would prompt drug companies to lower prices remains to be seen. Officials said they would enforce the rule using both public shaming -- a list would be published of companies that defy the regulation -- and legal action.

Drug companies were clearly trying to fend off any government regulation. Shortly before Azar's announcement, PhRMA announced a plan in which companies would take to direct consumers to websites that would list drug prices.

Azar called the industry announcement "no coincidence" and said, "we appreciate their effort."

"But placing information on a website is not the same as putting it right in an ad, and it’s taken them five months since the president’s blueprint (to address drug pricing) to start skating to where the puck is going," he said.

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ABCNews.com(ATLANTA) -- There are now 62 confirmed reports of acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, across 22 states in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As of Sept. 20, the CDC had confirmed 38 cases in 16 states, which aren't required to report AFM cases to the CDC. This year's numbers are similar to 2016 and 2014.

Since 2014, 386 cases have been confirmed, the CDC said on Tuesday. Currently, 127 patients are under investigation.

The average age of those afflicted is 4, and 90 percent of those with AFM are 18 or younger, the CDC said.

Acute flaccid myelitis is a rare condition that affects the spinal cord and can cause partial paralysis. It mostly afflicts children and young adults and can be caused by toxins in one's environment, genetic disorders or viruses such as poliovirus, West Nile virus or adenovirus.

Symptoms of AFM are similar to a severe respiratory illness along with a fever, but those progress into neurological symptoms. Some who contract AFM will feel weakness in their arms or legs, a loss of muscle tone or slower reflexes. The most severe symptom is respiratory failure.

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iStock/ThinkstockBY: DR. AMISHA AHUJA

(NEW YORK) -- For Breast Cancer Awareness month this October, tennis star Serena Williams went topless in a music video, singing the song "I Touch Myself" while covering her breasts with her hands. It was all to remind women about the importance of regular self-check breast examinations and being aware of any changes.

"Yes, this put me out of my comfort zone," Williams, 37, wrote on Instagram. "But I wanted to do it because it's an issue that affects all women of all colors, all around the world."

In reality, breast cancer disproportionately affects some groups in the U.S. more than others. Black women are now 42 percent more likely to die from their breast cancer than white women, according to a report from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Despite similar incidences of breast cancer between white and black women in the U.S., black women often suffer from the disease at younger ages and are more likely to die from their disease at all ages. This disparity was first recognized thirty years ago in statistics from the National Cancer Institute, and it's one that persists today.

In September, the American Association for Cancer Research released their Cancer Progress Report highlighting the ongoing challenge of disparities faced in cancer care. Despite new advancements in earlier detection and therapy, and with an overall decline in cancer deaths by 39 percent in the 26-year lead up to 2015, it’s perplexing that some American women don’t fare as well as others in breast cancer outcomes. What exactly accounts for these differences?

Like many big questions in medicine, the answer is complex. Some of these factors may be genetically driven, and many of them may be related to larger social and structural institutions. Here we break down the major factors.

Possible differences in cancer biology

As Williams points out and as is generally true for all cancers, the earlier breast cancer is caught the better. This is based on the understanding that catching a cancer when it is localized (just in the breast), before it has had the chance to spread, leads to much better outcomes. For example, localized disease treatment boasts a 99 percent survival rate five years after diagnosis, versus only 27 percent in distant, metastatic forms of the disease.

This idea itself may come as no surprise, but what is astounding is that black women have lower incidences of localized disease than white women, even though black women have comparable rates of breast cancer screening via mammography. Although some believe that the data overestimates mammography rates in minorities and especially the elderly, people are looking at other explanations for these differences beyond screening.

One thought on why black women may have worse breast cancer outcomes is rooted in a difference in genes. Although breast cancer is seen as one disease, there are so many subtypes. Scientists are getting better at recognizing through genetic detection, which cancer type a woman has, and each of these subtypes likely has different risks and different outcomes. They also respond differently to therapy.

Scientists are trying to look closely at the different genetic make-up of cancer cells to understand whether biology is at play in determining the different outcomes in American communities. While the genetic evaluation of cancers is only in its infancy, there are some things we already know. It is well-documented that black women are much more likely than white women to have triple negative breast cancer. This is a type of cancer that is not responsive to three of the most common hormones that usually cause breast cells to grow – estrogen, progesterone, and human epidermal growth factor – and is notoriously more aggressive and difficult to treat.

Yet, the link between genes, the environment, and disease is complicated and often a game of chicken or the egg. It’s been shown that a number of risk factors—-such as diet, socioeconomic status, body mass index and pregnancy history–-also affect breast cancer incidences and outcomes, leading some to wonder whether these factors in turn play into genetics.

But the fact that racial disparities can be geographically mapped in communities known to be poorer and more segregated has clued many to the fact that the differences in cancer outcomes can’t be attributed to molecules alone.

Structural systems at play

Understanding breast cancer disparities in America requires an appreciation for the larger structural inequalities that exist and their wide-ranging effects, from varying health care behaviors to health care access to disease burden.

Racial inequalities at a social level have shaped systems in huge ways. Access to safe housing, transportation, quality education and jobs, as well as the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables are all elements of daily life that run along racial and economic lines in the U.S.

Poverty can bring with it a host of bad health outcomes and diseases, including obesity, which can negatively influence a woman’s breast cancer landscape. Studies have shown that economic status explains much of breast cancer outcome disparities. Black women suffering from breast cancer are more likely to have other medical conditions, which can complicate their disease.

Lowered socioeconomic status has also been associated with a lowered rate of receiving recommended chemotherapy and radiation. This may be due to a lack of access to care, for example either because of health insurance or no transportation. States and cities that have made improvements in insurance coverage have seen a narrowing of breast cancer disparities between black and white women.

Over the last several decades, there have been fewer studies in breast cancer research looking at black women. Even now, minority communities are less likely to be involved in cancer trials that will be shaping future approaches to treatment.

Where to go from here

The first step in addressing the problem is recognizing that disparate outcomes between races is an issue in the U.S. Doctors, scientists, and national agencies are now committed to discussing and eliminating disparities in breast cancer outcomes.

The reasons why breast cancer disproportionately affects black women in the U.S. rest in a complicated intersection between genetic and social factors. Further research and attention should bring nuanced interventions from multiple angles, including ongoing investigation into genetic therapies and research into the way that social forces continue to shape health outcomes.

Amisha Ahuja is an internal medicine resident at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and a contributor to the ABC News Medical Unit.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Trump administration said Monday it plans to require drug makers to start disclosing its prices in television advertisements, a move that prompted immediate pushback from the pharmaceutical industry and raised questions about whether it would actually work to lower drug costs.

The proposed new rule says anyone selling drugs paid for by Medicare or Medicaid would have to divulge a "list price" in any television ads using "legible text." That means the price would have to be printed on the screen big enough to read, and not just read quickly read by a fast-talking announcer.

The spike in drug costs for U.S. consumers, particularly seniors, was a 2016 campaign issue for President Donald Trump, who promised that he would lover costs for most Americans. Trump's health secretary, Alex Azar, is a former executive at pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Co., which faced criticism during his tenure for dramatically raising prices for its insulin products.

Azar on Monday said the drug industry "remains resistant to providing real transparency" on pricing.

"Patients deserve to know what a given drug could cost when they’re being told about the benefits and risks it may have," Azar said in a speech Monday at a forum hosted by the National Academy of Medicine. "They deserve to know if the drug company has pushed their prices to abusive levels. And they deserve to know this every time they see a drug advertised to them on TV."

List price is typically considered the sticker price of a drug and doesn't take into account rebates or discounts. The Health and Human Services Department says the rule would apply to any company advertising on television for prescription drug and biological products paid for by Medicare or Medicaid. The agency says the 10 most commonly advertised drugs have list prices ranging from $535 to $11,000 per month or usual course of therapy.

The new rule isn't final. The proposal will be released for public comment, and those comments will be taken into consideration before a final rule is enforced.

The administration says this plan could affect almost every American. Patient costs are typically calculated using the list price, even if a person has insurance. And some 47 percent of Americans have high-deductible health plans, according to HHS, which require that a patient pay the list price until their insurance kicks in.

Senior officials at the Department Health and Human Services said they don't believe they would face challenges in court by drugmakers claiming the rule violates their First Amendment rights because there are other, similar requirements on advertisements. But whether the plan would prompt drug companies to lower prices remains to be seen. Officials said they would enforce the rule using both public shaming -- a list would be published of companies that defy the regulation -- and legal action.

Holly Campbell, a spokeswoman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a trade association known as "PhRMA," said the group is still digesting the announcement but she suggested industry executives aren't happy.

"We think there is a better way to provide patients with medicine cost information," she said.

Drug companies were clearly trying to fend off any government regulation. Shortly before Azar's announcement, PhRMA announced a plan in which companies would take to direct consumers to websites that would list drug prices.

Azar called the industry announcement "no coincidence" and said, "we appreciate their effort."

"But placing information on a website is not the same as putting it right in an ad, and it’s taken them five months since the president’s (announced plan) to start skating to where the puck is going," he said.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A Florida child who hadn't received a flu vaccination died from the virus in late September or early October, according to the state's department of health.

It's the first reported pediatric death in Florida for the 2018-19 flu season.

Vaccinations have been shown to reduce a child's likelihood of dying from the flu by 60 percent, health department officials said.

Vaccines are recommended for anyone at least six months old.

The unidentified child was otherwise healthy before getting the flu, according to the Florida Department of Health's Bureau of Epidemiology. The child tested positive for influenza B at a local health care provider.

About 80,000 Americans, including 180 children, died last year in the deadliest flu season in more than 40 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Approximately 80 percent of those who died were not vaccinated.

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Ben Birchall - WPA Pool / Getty Images(LONDON) -- Meghan Markle and Prince Harry announced their pregnancy this morning as they kicked off a 16-day tour that includes stops in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga.

But the trip is raising some concerns as doctors advise that women like Meghan, who is 12 weeks pregnant, should not travel to areas that pose risks of Zika infection.

"In Obstetrics, my advice is always to err on the side of caution," Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News' chief health and medical correspondent, said in a statement to "Good Morning America." "But many decisions that arise during pregnancy are for the pregnant woman, her partner and her OB or midwife to make."

The Zika virus primarily spreads through infected mosquitoes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Zika can also be transmitted through sex without a condom with someone who was infected by the virus, even if that person does not show symptoms of Zika. There is currently no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika, and it can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause a birth defect called microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects, according to the CDC.

Along with other precautions, the CDC recommends against pregnant women traveling to places with documented or likely Zika virus transmission.

Here's more CDC recommendations for protecting yourself against Zika during pregnancy.

What to do if you're travelling or living in an area with risk of Zika

Take steps to prevent mosquito bites.

Take steps to prevent getting Zika through sex (oral, vaginal, or anal) by using condoms from start to finish every time you have sex or by not having sex during your entire pregnancy.

What to do after you travel


Talk to a doctor or other healthcare provider after travel to an area with risk of Zika.

If you develop a fever with a rash, headache, joint pain, red eyes, or muscle pain talk, the CDC says to talk to your doctor immediately and tell him or her about your travel.

Take steps to prevent mosquito bites for three weeks after returning.

Continue taking steps to prevent passing Zika through sex by using condoms, or abstaining from sex.

When to get tested for Zika


The CDC recommends getting tested for Zika if you've traveled to an area with risk of Zika or had sex with a partner who lived in or traveled to one of those areas.

You can search for the CDC's travel recommendations for Zika through their interactive map, which lets you search for location-specific Zika info.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The federal government's push to prevent lead from harming children's health has stalled, according to a top scientist at the Environmental Protection Agency who was recently placed on leave for what the agency called serious allegations.

The scientist, Ruth Etzel, said the U.S. effort to stop children from being exposed to lead proposed after the Flint water crisis was "stonewalled" under the Trump administration.

An EPA spokesman said Etzel's claims are not true and that the agency is moving forward on a national lead strategy. Further, the agency claims she was placed on leave to investigate allegations about her leadership of the Office of Children's Health.

EPA officials have declined to provide any further details, saying they do not publicly comment on personnel matters.

At issue is how quickly the federal government is moving to address the disastrous health effects of lead on children. The CDC says there is no safe level of exposure to lead, which can cause developmental problems and learning disabilities in children.

The dangers of lead come into urgent national focus after lead in water pipes in Flint, Michigan, led to a massive public health crisis. The city's tap water became contaminated in 2014 after officials switched from the Detroit system to the Flint River to save money, exposing residents to lead. This July, the EPA's Inspector General called on the federal agency to strengthen its oversight of state drinking water systems nationally and respond more quickly to public health emergencies such as the Flint crisis.

The federal government has been working to coordinate a response that would prevent more children from being exposed to led.

Etzel, one of the co-chairs of a federal lead task force, now says the federal government isn't moving fast enough. She said she wasn't allowed to brief then-EPA administrator Scott Pruitt or acting administrator Andrew Wheeler since the task force recommended actions that multiple agencies could take to limit children's exposure to lead, including measures to reduce lead in food and limit airborne exposure from jet fuel that contains lead.

The original target date to act on these recommendations was earlier this summer.

"I've always felt like if you want to talk the talk then you also have to walk the walk and what I'm not seeing now is any actions that would indicate EPA is walking the walk to reduce children's lead exposure," Etzel told ABC News.

She first discussed the policy in an interview with CBS News.

Etzel was the agency's senior pediatric expert until she was recently placed on administrative leave from her position as director of the Office of Children's Health three weeks ago.

She stressed that while on leave she is not speaking as an EPA employee but as a pediatrician with 35 years of experience.

"My concerns continue to be the same that children need to breathe clean air and drink clean water and eat clean food. That's been a concern of the children's office from the beginning," she said adding that she hasn't been told why she was placed on leave.

An EPA spokesman pushed back against Etzel's claims in a statement.

"Dr. Etzel is currently on investigative leave because of serious reports made against her by staff regarding her ability to effectively lead the Office of Children’s Health. The kinds of allegations that have been raised regarding Dr. Etzel’s conduct are very concerning and prompted EPA to take action," EPA spokesman John Konkus said in an emailed statement sent after the story originally published.

"Her attempt to use the press to distract from the allegations about her personal conduct is completely inappropriate. Any link that Dr. Etzel is attempting to draw between her personal situation and the mission of the Office of Children’s Health is an attempt at misdirection. EPA is 100 percent committed to protecting children’s health and will do everything in its power to ensure that the Office has competent leadership."

In a version of the statement sent earlier in the day, Konkus said Etzel was on leave because of "serious reports made against her" and that it was unfortunate she decided to go to the press to distract from the allegations.

When ABC News read the earlier EPA statement over the phone to Etzel she called it "completely slanderous" and declined to speak any further.

Konkus said EPA is still working with the Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Health and Human Services to update the report and that he didn't know if Wheeler had been briefed on the latest information on the recommendations.

EPA, HUD, and HHS have events planned for National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, which starts October 21.

More than 120 organizations environmental and health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, wrote to acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler asking for an explanation for why Etzel was placed on leave and a commitment that the agency will still make children's health issues a priority.

"The current EPA leadership talks about children’s health, and it is literally that – just talk," Olga Naidenko, science adviser for the Environmental Working Group said. "When it comes to action — such as protecting children from exposure to lead, mercury and harmful pesticides — what we see is administration activities aimed to roll back children’s health protections, not strengthen them."

Naidenko also serves on an EPA advisory committee on children's health issues.

EPA has put out multiple press release reiterating its commitment to children's health in recent weeks, which coincides with children's health month. Wheeler also officially reaffirmed the agency's policy that infants and children should be considered especially vulnerable to harm from pollution and that any proposals should specifically evaluate the impact on children.

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iStock/ThinkstockBY. DR. TAMBETTA OJONG

(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. Constitution’s second amendment gives us the “right to bear arms,” but what if having a gun for protection is actually putting you more at risk of harm? A new study finds that a person’s chances of being involved in a fatal police shooting is higher in states with the highest rates of gun ownership, compared to those with the lowest.

The study, from researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Northeastern University found that people were 3.6 times more likely to be involved in fatal police shootings if they lived in the 10 states with the most guns — Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisian, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and West Virginia — than if they lived in the five states with the least — Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.

Rates of fatal police shootings in the U.S. are among the highest of any other developed country, with about 1,000 civilians killed each year. This data comes from the Washington Post's "Fatal Force Database," which the researchers used for their study because there isn't a federal database to track police-inflicted deaths.

Looking at data for the years 2015-2017, the researchers asessed the levels of household gun ownership in each state, and adjusted for violent crime rates, as well as the proportion of the population that was non-white or living in poverty and urbanization.

During the three years, they calculated a total of 2,934 fatal police shootings, and found that 56 percent of those killed were armed with a gun. In all, a fatal shooting was 40 percent more likely to happen in states with more guns.

“The high gun states tend to have weaker gun laws in comparison to the weak gun states,” said lead author David Hemenway, a professor of health policy at Harvard.

And although the study didn’t look into it, Hemenway believes that the “combination of having weaker gun laws and owning more guns are all factors contributing to the higher rates of police shootings in these states.”

It was unclear from the study if the shootings were justifiable or preventable.

Previous studies have shown that police in the U.S. are more likely to be shot and killed in states with high rates of gun ownership.

“In this study, people in these states — with higher gun ownership — may also be more likely to be shot and killed by the police,” Hemenway said, “due to a perceived fear of the police officer that the person they are dealing with is armed.”

Dr. Tambetta Ojong is a family medicine resident at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and a member of the ABC News Medical Unit.

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BY. COLETTE POOLE-BOYKIN

(NEW YORK) --  In the 21st Century, multiple media devices, such as smartphones, computers and television, constantly compete for our attention. Using them all at once is known as media multitasking, and it forces our brains to work overtime to process all the information — often inefficiently. Not only does this make us prone to errors, but according to a new study, it can also negatively affect our approach to social situations.

The study, from researchers at several universities across the U.S., found an association between media multitasking and how we perceive people in our environment. More specifically, it found that cues in the environment might negatively influence how media multitaskers judge people in them, even when those cues are completely unrelated to the person and their personality.

For the study, researchers compared how 96 college students filtered out irrelevant information from their own environment when judging new people. The students were placed in either a neat or messy room, the latter of which was meant to provide the participants with irrelevant cues.

Then, the students were asked to watch a video featuring a person being interviewed in either a messy or tidy room, and to rate the conscientiousness of this person — a core personality trait, according to the researchers.

Following the experiment, researchers gathered information on the levels of media multitasking and distractibility of each student. The researchers found that students who reported frequent media multitasking and were placed in the messy room were more likely to rate the unknown person in the video as having low conscientiousness. These findings were consistent regardless of whether the room in the video, where the person was being interviewed, was messy or tidy.

By contrast, people who simultaneously used multiple devices less frequently did not exhibit this behavior.

“The results suggests that high media multitaskers may, unknowingly, include irrelevant information from their environment… when they form impressions of others, rather than potentially more relevant information provided by the other person’s environment,” said Richard Lopez, Ph.D., of the Department of Psychology at Rice University, in a statement.

Lopez added that the study is only the first step in finding links between media multitasking and how people form impressions of others. Further research, according to the study, could include examining how media multitasking affects behaviors in kids and teens — from judging others to achieving goals to emotional reactions.

The study did not prove causality, only an association.

Lopez said that “further research is needed to determine whether high media multitaskers incorporate environmental cues differently in other areas than person perception.”

Dr. Colette Poole-Boykin is a child psychiatry fellow at the Yale Child Study Center and a contributor to the ABC News Medical Unit.

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iStock/ThinkstockBY: DR. COLETTE POOLE-BOYKIN

(NEW YORK) -- Windows boarded and emergency plans in place, with gallons of water and canned goods stocked. As people who are rushing to prepare for an impending natural disaster check items on to-do lists, it is possible to overlook a less visible need -- the mental health of children.

Stress reactions to calamities like hurricanes, floods and fires tend to show up in increased emergency room admissions, and such trauma can have a particularly lasting effect on children. Research shows that adverse childhood experiences today can turn into chronic illnesses in adulthood.

It's important to know that mental health problems are not uncommon in children. Ten to 20 percent of children and teens suffer from a diagnosable anxiety disorder. And it's highly likely many more suffer from anxiety issues that may not meet the criteria for a diagnosis, but still cause impairment and difficulty for the child. Since anxiety disorder is the most prevalent mental health condition in children, caregivers may want to help keep their child’s anxiety levels low during and after hurricanes and other disasters.

Here are some tips to understand how disasters may affect children's mental health and ways to help.

Why are children particularly vulnerable to trauma from disasters?

- Children are most vulnerable because they may not be able to understand all that is going on around them, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

- They may also struggle to communicate how they are feeling during this unfamiliar event that is threatening their safety and that of their family.

- Any child can suffer emotional distress from a disaster. But some children are at particular risk: Those who are under 8 years old and those who have endured trauma in the past or struggled with emotional, behavioral, or developmental problems.

What are some possible signs that a child is suffering mental stress after a calamity?


- They may show a change in their mood or behavior, such as becoming sad, anxious or scared, according to the CDC's blog, "Helping children cope with disaster."

- They may be more resistant to separating from caregivers to go to child care programs or school, or even to go to bed or play in another room.

- They may also have sleep problems -- sleeping too little or too much -- as well as headaches and stomachaches.

- Children often find it difficult to concentrate on school work after a disaster.

- Children may also, for a period of time, become more self-centered or immature and appear more clingy, less cooperative, more demanding, and irritable, the CDC says. Older children and adolescents may turn to smoking, alcohol, or other drugs to deal with their feelings.

How to help children weather a disaster with peace of mind?


- Inform children of what's going on with age-appropriate details, and start a conversation. Acknowledge it is a real-world problem, as opposed to fears from fairy tales or nightmares.

- Children need to know what they can expect and what you and other adults are doing to keep your family safe.

- Encourage them to ask questions.

- Teach children principles of deep breathing while they are calm. One possibility is to use a bottle of bubbles. Ask the children to focus on their breathing, take a deep breath allowing their tummy rise, and blowing the biggest bubble they can. This requires control so that the child will naturally breathe deeply with this activity.

- For children who already have anxiety, shielding them from their fears can work against them. A better approach is to offer nonjudgmental and validating phrases like, “I believe you can handle this!”

- Overexposure has the potential to inadvertently traumatize or re-traumatize children, so adults should limit what they say about the turmoil in front of kids and restrict exposure to media coverage of the disaster and its aftermath.

- Parents and caregivers may also want to ask friends and relatives for additional support for the family and children.

- Consider professional help such as from a therapist or psychologist if a child continues to be very upset for more than two to four weeks after the disaster; if their problems get worse instead of better over time; or if their reactions after their school work or relationships with friends or family.

- Stress may be unavoidable, but stress-related symptoms and disorders are preventable. It is possible to build resilience in children by remaining aware of the importance of healthy coping methods and the dangers of unchecked stress.

If you or a loved one needs help, there is a disaster distress helpline that operates every day at all times, run by the federal agency for mental health and substance abuse. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor focused on distress from disasters.

Dr. Colette Poole-Boykin is a child psychiatry fellow at the Yale Child Studies Center and a member of the ABC News Medical Unit.

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