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Health

Delta COVID-19 variant is now in more than 80 countries, WHO says

narvikk/iStock

(NEW YORK) -- The delta COVID-19 variant, which was first detected in India, has now been reported in more than 80 countries, according to the World Health Organization.

The WHO declared the delta variant a "variant of concern" last month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week upgraded its classification of delta from a "variant of interest" to a "variant of concern."

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO's technical lead for COVID-19, said variants of concern have demonstrated "increased transmissibility."

"That means it has mutations that allow, for example, the virus to adhere to the cell and infect the cell more easily in the person," Van Kerkhove said at a WHO briefing Wednesday. "If it can spread more easily than more people can get infected quickly. And if a system is overwhelmed, and many systems are overwhelmed already, it can overburden the health system and fill beds very quickly."

Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told ABC News' "Good Morning America" that the delta variant "is far more contagious than any variant we have seen throughout this entire pandemic."

"It also appears to be a little bit more deadly for people who get infected," he said Wednesday. "And what we are seeing is, while our vaccines seem to generally hold up, we're seeing a few more breakthrough infections."

Jha also noted, "Headaches and sore throat are the kind of key features of this variant. Whether that will hold up in larger data, we don't know. But it's something we should keep an eye on."

Vaccination is key to stopping the virus from circulating and more variants from popping up, according to experts.

"We're going to be dealing with these other variants in the future that the vaccines may or may not be able to control," said Nevan Krogan, a molecular biologist at the University of California, San Francisco.

"We've got to get everybody vaccinated, but we need to understand how these viruses are mutating and overcoming our defense mechanisms," he said. "The virus has always been a couple of steps ahead of us. We've got to get a step ahead of it."

ABC News' Erin Schumaker contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Texas man who declined COVID-19 vaccine speaks out after undergoing double lung transplant

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Joshua Garza had a chance to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in January but he passed it up, thinking he didn't really need it.

Now, the 43-year-old Texan is hoping to inspire others to get the shot after he became so ill following his COVID-19 diagnosis that he needed a rare double lung transplant to survive.

"COVID ended up attacking my lungs," Garza, of Sugarland, told ABC News.

After testing positive for COVID-19 in late January, Garza's health deteriorated rapidly. On Feb. 2, when he ended up falling while trying to walk, his wife called for an ambulance to take him to the hospital. He was ultimately transferred to Houston Methodist, where he was put on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine to pump and oxygenate his blood for him.

"It was quick, it was within three weeks, the lungs were already shot," said Garza, who works in the oil and gas industry.

"They're telling you your lungs are failing, so you don't know if you're going to go to bed tonight and wake up tomorrow," he said.

Garza was put on the lung transplant list, and on April 13, successfully underwent surgery. He spent several more weeks recovering and rehabilitating to regain his strength after two months on life support before being released from the hospital on May 27.

Lung transplants are a rare intervention for COVID-19 patients "with no other options," Dr. Howard Huang, the medical director of lung transplantation at Houston Methodist and one of the doctors who treated Garza, told ABC News.

"Mr. Garza is an extreme example of somebody who had complete lung failure, and there was really no other way out in the immediate future other than transplant," he said.

It was "almost miraculous" that Garza was able to be put on the ECMO machine during the winter surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations and matched with a donor, Huang said.

"Everything just lined up in his favor," he said.

Houston Methodist has performed eight double lung transplants on COVID-19 patients, and has several more patients who are on life support awaiting transplant, Huang said.

"These people are still fighting for their lives," he said.

Houston Methodist continues to see patients with severe illness from COVID-19, many of whom have not been vaccinated, Huang said. It's difficult to say for sure, but Huang believes that had Garza gotten the vaccine when he was able to, "it's likely that we would have never gotten to this point."

"The data that's now coming out suggests that the vaccines are very good at preventing severe illness," he said. "Even if he had ended up in a hospital, maybe it wouldn't have progressed all the way to complete lung failure that couldn't be salvaged without a lung transplant."

Over 44% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, and over 52% have received at least one dose, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Most coronavirus hospitalizations occur in adults, though COVID-19 poses a severe risk to unvaccinated teens, a recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report found. Nearly a third of teens ages 12-17 hospitalized with COVID-19 ended up in the intensive care unit, the study found.

Health officials are urging young Americans to get vaccinated, particularly given the potential threat of the more contagious Delta variant.

"It's much easier to get the vaccine than to go through something like this," Huang said of Garza's case. "He's extremely lucky. Most people in this situation don't make it to the transplant. You can't count on this outcome."

For Garza, he's sharing his story in hopes of helping prevent others from experiencing what we went through.

"If I knew what I know now," he said, "I would have definitely went through with the vaccination."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


What to know about 'forever chemicals,' the potentially toxic PFAS found in some cosmetics

JackF/iStock

(NEW YORK) -- Many cosmetic products sold in the U.S. and Canada contain potentially toxic chemicals known as PFAS, according to a new study.

The journal of Environmental Science & Technology Letters published research on Tuesday that shows how these "forever chemicals" tend to accumulate in our bodies and persist in the environment, and that they're not listed on product ingredient labels even though they're potentially harmful.

PFAS are manmade compounds that are often added to cosmetics such as waterproof mascara or long-wearing lipstick that are designed to stay put.

Out of 231 products screened, foundations (63%), eye products (58%), lip products (55%) and mascaras (47%) were among those containing fluorine, an indicator the product has PFAS.

"We don't know exactly how much is absorbed through our skin," Dr. Whitney Bowe told ABC News' Good Morning America. "But we do know that products that are used close to the eyes and on the lips are more likely to be absorbed. ... The skin around the eyes is thin and delicate, and the lips are made up of mucous membranes -- very thin layers that more readily absorb ingredients. And people often lick their lips without knowing, so that's another source of exposure."

Bowe warned that PFAS have been linked to certain types of cancer, thyroid disease, liver damage and reproductive issues, although these health risks have been primarily seen with high exposure levels.

Manufacturers aren't required to identify PFAS on labels, but there are additional ways consumer can protect themselves, one of which, Bowe explained, is avoiding cosmetics that use words like "waterproof" or "long-wear."

"I often tell my patients to turn around their products and look at the ingredient lists. If an ingredient starts with 'perfluor' that's a red flag," Bowe explained. "In this study, most of the contaminated products actually didn't even list the ingredient on the label. So even a savvy consumer would have no way of knowing that a product had PFAS in it."

Following the study's release, the "No PFAS in Cosmetics Act" was introduced in the U.S. House and Senate by Sen. Susan Collins, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Rep. Debbie Dingell and several others with an aim to ban PFAS in makeup and personal care products.

"Unfortunately, Maine has experienced considerable PFAS contamination, which has not only threatened our water supply, but adversely affected the livelihoods of farmers," Collins said in a statement.

"Americans should be able to trust that the products they are applying to their hair or skin are safe," Collins added. "Our bill would require the FDA to ban the addition of PFAS to cosmetics."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Universities can't require vaccines: Arizona governor's executive order

Bill Oxford/iStock

(PHOENIX) -- Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order on Tuesday that prohibits public universities and community colleges from requiring students to get COVID-19 vaccines or show proof of vaccination to attend class.

"The vaccine works, and we encourage Arizonans to take it," Ducey said in a statement. "But it is a choice and we need to keep it that way."

Although the executive order means universities in Arizona can't require students to wear masks or participate in mandatory COVID-19 testing, Ducey included an exemption for students working in health care settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, group homes and medical facilities. Those facilities are allowed to require health screenings and proof of vaccination.

In the event of a "a significant COVID-19 outbreak in a shared student housing setting that poses a risk to students or staff," universities may require COVID-19 testing, but only if the Arizona Department of Health Services approves that testing first, the executive order states. The order, which has not yet been signed into law, does not prevent schools from encouraging vaccinations, providing testing or allowing students to wear masks voluntarily.

"In Arizona, getting the #COVID19 vaccine is a choice -- not a requirement," Ducey wrote on Twitter.

Ducey's executive order may be in response to an announcement issued by Arizona State University on Monday.

"We are writing to remind you of the university’s expectation that all students enrolled in an on-campus academic program for 2021-22 will be vaccinated," wrote Dr. Joanne Vogel, ASU's vice president of student services. According to Vogel's notice, students were expected to be fully vaccinated two weeks prior to the first day of class and to upload proof of vaccination to the school's health portal. Unvaccinated students would be required to wear masks indoors and outdoors and undergo twice weekly COVID-19 testing.

On Tuesday, ASU issued a statement, saying that it would comply with the governor's executive order and pushing back on the notion that there had been any vaccine mandate in the first place. "This week, we informed our student population of what to expect when they return to campus for the fall semester. We did not communicate a vaccine mandate."

Arizona lags slightly behind the national average in vaccinations. As of Tuesday, 48% of residents had received at least one dose, and 38% were fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By comparison, 53% of Americans have gotten at least one shot and 44% are fully vaccinated.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Ciara celebrates her body in new photo: 'Hello to me-pre baby weight!'

Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for BET

(NEW YORK) -- Ciara is showing off her figure after spending nearly a year working to get back to her pre-baby body, which meant shedding nearly 40 pounds of pregnancy weight.

The "1, 2 Step" singer welcomed her third child, a boy named Win, last July.

"Goodbye to those last 10lbs I've been working on these past 5 weeks, Hello to me-pre baby weight," Ciara, 35, shared Tuesday on Instagram alongside a recent photo of her striking a pose in a two-piece leather outfit.

The Grammy winner credited WW (Weight Watchers) -- which she is a paid ambassador for -- in helping her reach her goal.

"I'm so proud of myself -- down 39 pounds on my @ww journey," she gushed. "Thank you to everyone for your support, we did it!"

Ciara also took to her Instagram stories, sporting a white T-shirt and jean shorts, to speak further about hitting her goal, saying the journey has "been crazy, but so much fun."

"Took a lot of focus and a lot of commitment and dedication," she continued, adding that her weight loss journey "this time around was different for me -- juggling being a mama of three, work and travel."

She then revealed how she celebrated the milestone -- by diving into a sausage and pepperoni calzone.

Ciara first opened up to fans last August about wanting to shed her pregnancy weight, when she announced, "48lbs to go! Starting the game plan tomorrow!!"

The singer and her husband, Russell Wilson, are parents to three children: 7-year-old Future, who is Ciara's son from a previous relationship, 4-year-old Sienna, and 1-year-old Win.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Mom's budget-friendly guide to getting picky eaters to try new foods

Kids Eat in Color

(NEW YORK) -- Getting kids to eat a variety of foods is a struggle that even moms who are nutrition experts know well.

"My first son fell off the growth chart starting when he was 6-months-old," Jennifer Anderson, a registered dietitian and mom of two, told ABC News' Good Morning America. "I was standing in the pediatrician's office thinking but I'm a dietitian. How does this happen to a dietitian?"

The experience prompted Anderson to dive into research on kids and nutrition. The result is her Instagram account, Kids Eat In Color, where she gives her more than 1.3 million followers tips to get kids to try new foods.

"You may be feeding your child only fast food. You may be feeding your child only chicken nuggets. Whoever you are, you will find a place where other parents are there to welcome you and to say, 'Hey, you are doing a great job,'" Anderson said of the community among her social media following.

Anderson is also focused on providing recipes and tips that are budget-friendly for families.

She partnered with a team of experts to create the "Affordable Flavors Meal Plan," a 30-day plan to help children expand their palates while sticking to a budget of $500 a month or less for a family of four.

"We do not believe that you have to eat poorly on a budget," said Anderson. "You do have to be careful. You do have to be creative, but the food can still be flavorful. It can be delicious."

1. Serve children 'micro portions'

This tip will help reduce food waste and stretch your food budget, according to Anderson.

"Micro portions are when you serve your child a very small amount of food and then let them keep asking for more until they are full," she said. "Instead of using [a large] spoon, you would actually use something more like [a small] spoon to help your child eat their meals."

2. Learn how to cook a few basics

Learning how to cook a basic food like chicken can stretch into several meals over the course of a week, according to Anderson.

"You can buy and cook your chicken on the weekend and then you can eat it that day and you can also save the leftovers for the week," she said. "You took one purchase and turned into a resource for the entire week."

3. Don't always splurge on organic foods

Knowing when it's okay to not choose organic foods can help you get more bang for your buck, according to Anderson.

"Organic grown foods and conventionally grown foods look exactly the same when you cut them open, except that conventionally grown foods are a lot less expensive," she said. "And that's going to help your family get more variety and get more food for your dollar."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Woman carries baby for her twin sister who had hysterectomy due to pregnancy-related cancer

Courtesy Sarah Sharp and Cathey Stoner

(NEW YORK) -- When Sarah Sharp was diagnosed in 2018 with a rare gynecological cancer and told unexpectedly that she may need an emergency hysterectomy, her twin sister, Cathey Stoner, was there for her.

"Cathey rushed to the emergency room to be by my side," Sharp, now 33, told ABC News' Good Morning America. "And that was the first time she said to me, 'If you need to have a hysterectomy, I'll have your babies.'"

Just weeks earlier, Sharp, who like Stoner lives in the Nashville, Tennessee area, had been diagnosed with choriocarcinoma, a rare and fast-growing cancer that occurs in a woman's uterus.

It was a shocking diagnosis, not only because doctors told her the cancer likely came from her first and only pregnancy, with her now 4-year-old daughter Charlotte, but also because the cancer was likely to rob her of any future pregnancies.

"The diagnosis pretty much rocked my world," said Sharp, who went to her OBGYN thinking she had a miscarriage because she was experiencing bleeding and had a positive pregnancy test. "My first thought was just survival and getting through treatment."

"But it broke me," she added "because my husband and I wanted to have more kids. My daughter had just turned 1."

Sharp underwent seven rounds of chemotherapy in an attempt to beat the cancer while also saving her uterus. She was declared cancer-free in December 2018, just before her 31st birthday, but by her first checkup, in January, the cancer had returned.

She began a new course of chemotherapy and also underwent a hysterectomy, which successfully removed the cancer but left her without the hope of giving birth to another child.

"It was kind of a déjà vu moment where I found Cathey and my husband by my bedside again," said Sharp, referring to the moment a year before in the emergency room. "And that's when Cathey said, 'I'm serious this time. I will have your babies.'"

"We kind of laughed a little bit again but for me, in the back of my mind, it was something to hold onto," she said. "It was something to help me move myself forward mentally. It was hope and grace and the future all in one."

Now nearly three years after her diagnosis, Sharp is both cancer-free and preparing to become a mom again.

Her sister, Stoner, is due to give birth in August to John Ryder, the biological son of Sharp and her husband.

"From the beginning I've felt differently in this pregnancy because I know it's my nephew and not my son, and I have loved every step of the way," said Stoner, who is the gestational carrier. "I tell people, 'I'm just carrying my nephew.'"

Stoner said she and her husband, parents of a 4-year-old son and a 6-year-old daughter, had no hesitation about helping her sister expand her family in any way they could, whether it was Stoner as the carrier or someone else.

"We decided to knock on the doors and see if they opened," said Stoner. "There was a lot of waiting, but it went really smooth and, in October, they said we were ready to go."

By the end of last year, the two sisters were celebrating the news that Stoner was pregnant.

"To be able to go to the doctor for such a happy reason is really healing for all of us," said Stoner, who has shared every step of the pregnancy with Sharp, who has been to every doctors' appointment. "It's been an easy pregnancy so we've gotten to soak up the good stuff."

Sharp and her husband will be in the delivery room in August alongside Stoner and her husband as they welcome their son and nephew, respectively.

"We feel so unbelievably honored to be his parents and raise him," said Sharp. "A lot of love brought him here."

Sharp, an artist and architectural design representative, and Stoner, a registered dietitian, said they have learned firsthand through their journey the importance of women listening to their bodies.

They are now the co-hosts of a podcast, "Talk to Me Sister," that's focused on women's health and advocacy through the lens of their own journey.

"I'm lucky I had a twin sister who is educated in women's health and who has had babies in the past and miscarriages in the past, because had I not talked to my sister, I'm not sure I would have gone to the doctor," said Sharp of the doctor's visit that led to her cancer diagnosis. "What I've learned along the way is even if there's a light intuition that this may not be normal for me, I listen to it. it's usually my body telling me that something is off."

Choriocarcinoma, which affects 2 to 7 of every 100,000 pregnancies in the United States, has a low cure rate if it is not caught early and spreads outside of the uterus, according to the American Cancer Society.

"In the U.S., this is just a rare complication of pregnancy that many women don't know anything about unless they are faced with this diagnosis," said Dr. Alpa Nick, a Nashville-based gynecological oncologist who treated Sharp. "The most important thing is continuing your annual care and your well-women care after pregnancy. Keep your postpartum follow-up [appointment] and stay in touch with your doctor."

Nick, like Sharp and Stoner, also stressed the importance of women using their voice when faced with a diagnosis like this that threatens both their lives and their fertility.

"If fertility preservation is important, the first thing they have to do is say it out loud to their oncologist, and the earlier the better," said Nick. "With Sarah, we were able to stay focused on what her goals were and think about her cancer treatment in terms of survival, but also in terms of what she would want down the road after she survived this."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Why honeybees may be key to understanding alcohol addiction

balwan/iStock

(NEW YORK) -- The behavior of honeybees may hold the key to future studies of alcohol addiction, according to new research.

Worker honeybees that were fed alcohol-spiked food, a sucrose solution with about 1% ethanol added, for a long period of time experienced withdrawal symptoms when cut off from the solution, according to a study published Tuesday in the scientific journal Biology Letters.

Researchers from the Polish Academy of Sciences observed that when access to the solution was discontinued, the bees exhibited a "marked" increase of consumption of ethanol as well as a slight increase in mortality, according to the study.

The bees would then willingly consume sugar solutions with alcohol concentrations as high as 20% and then display behaviors similar to alcohol-intoxicated humans, including impaired locomotion, foraging and learning, researchers said.

The extent of the behaviors was dependent on how much ethanol was consumed.

The results of the study demonstrated that the worker bees could develop a dependence on alcohol, especially interesting considering that naturally occurring nectar is often contaminated by alcohol that fermented from yeast, the scientists said.

Among the honeybee workers, foragers outside the hive appeared to show the greatest resistance to the detrimental effects of the alcohol, likely due to evolution as the foragers occasionally encounter ethanol in nature, according to the study.

Honeybees not only willingly consume alcohol but are predisposed to alcoholism, according to recent research.

The results of the study provide new evidence of their suitability as a model for studying alcohol addiction, researchers said. Invertebrate model species are widely used to study alcoholism, according to the study.

"To understand alcohol abuse, the utilization of animal models is essential," the researchers said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Grieving COVID-19 widow reflects on keeping her husband's memory alive, finding community

Courtesy of Pamela Addison

(PATERSON, N.J.) -- It has been over a year since Pamela Addison lost her husband, Martin, to COVID-19, but the grief is still as raw as ever.

In late April 2020, the 36-year-old New Jersey teacher found herself a single mother to the couple's two young children, Elsie, 2, and Graeme, 5 months old, at the time of Martin’s death.

“I am still grieving the loss of my husband a year later. We haven't been able to grieve properly because of COVID-19 ... it's the most painful way to lose [someone]. I didn't get to say goodbye, and that will always haunt me,” Addison told ABC News.

Martin, a speech pathologist at St. Joseph's University Medical Center in Paterson, New Jersey, was just 44 when he became ill with the virus in late March of 2020.

Although Martin had been otherwise healthy at the time of his infection, he developed a cough following their daughter’s second birthday, and life quickly ceased to be normal. At the time, little was known about the virus that was steadily taking hold of the country, but within a matter of weeks, Martin was hospitalized and on a ventilator.

Despite numerous interventions and efforts, Martin succumbed to the virus just over a month after he developed his first symptoms.

Every night, they kiss their Papa's picture and tell him goodnight.

Martin’s lifelong dream was to be a father, Addison said, and though caring for the couple’s young children is her greatest joy, she said it has been a struggle to be the sole parent and provider.

“My heart aches for them to know that they just have me now,” Addison said, adding that she is doing the most she can to make sure they remember their father and the deep love he had for them.

“Every night, they kiss their Papa's picture and tell him goodnight. My daughter taught my son to do that, and it's an important part of our bedtime routine,” Addison added.

When she first lost her husband, Addison said she not only felt very alone and vulnerable, but she also felt like no one around her truly understood what it was like to be a grieving young widow and a newly single parent.

It was “a very, very lonely place to be,” she said, as she struggled to find her place in a “new normal,” which no longer included her husband.

Thus, in an effort to find a community of others who could be experiencing the same grief as she has over the past year, a few months after the death of her husband, Addison founded the Young Widows and Widowers of COVID-19 on Facebook, which now includes over 600 members.

“In creating this group, I have created a community of people who understand everything we have all been through. We have bonded over our losses ... we have built friendships that are forever because of this common bond that we all share in losing our husbands, and in some cases, our wives to COVID-19.”

An analysis published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which tracks the extent of loss of kin due to COVID-19 with a bereavement multiplier, estimates that 5.4 million family members have grieved the loss of a loved one due to COVID-19 since last year. Further, a research letter published in JAMA Pediatrics, found that as of February, 37, 300 children aged 0 to 17 years had lost at least one parent due to COVID-19.

That highlights the critical importance of being embraced and feeling supported by a group of individuals undergoing similar tragic experiences, Addison noted.

“It's just a beautiful community of people that I'm so blessed to have in my life now, because any time I'm having a rough moment, and I can talk to one of them, they totally understand what I'm saying and totally get it. It's just a safe place to share all our struggles and vent and cry and laugh together,” Addison said.

The need for such communities only appears to be becoming more necessary as the country’s death toll continues to increase. On Tuesday, the U.S. marked its most grim milestone yet when it surpassed 600,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths.

We need to remember that there are 600,000 families still grieving.

“When my husband died, it was only 60,000 people, and I could never, in my wildest dreams, imagined that we would be here today. I thought it was going to get better, and clearly people are still dying,” Addison said. “Yes, there is light at the end of the tunnel, but we have lost 600,000 people. Six hundred thousand families are going through the pain and heartbreak that my family has endured this past year.”

With virus cases and deaths falling sharply across the country and vaccination rates increasing, life appears to be slowly returning to a new normal, as states move to ease restrictions.

However, Addison said, as the country reopens, the loss is only becoming more real.

"We need to remember that there are 600,000 families still grieving, who will be grieving for the rest of their lives because they've lost a person that they loved more than life itself," she said. "We have to move forward and remember them and cherish all the memories we've had ... but we will never forget what COVID did to our families."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Heat wave safety: What to know about heat stroke vs. heat exhaustion

ABC News Photo Illustration

(NEW YORK) — As a dangerous heat wave hits the West, it's important to know how to keep yourself safe, like learning the symptoms of heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

Here are tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Wear sunscreen

Take precautions to prevent sunburn, which can make you dehydrated and affect your ability to cool down.

Use sunscreen that's SPF 15 or higher 30 minutes before going outside. Sunscreens that say "broad spectrum" or "UVA/UVB protection" are best.

Stay hydrated

Drink extra fluids, and don't wait until you're thirsty.

Avoid very sugary drinks and alcohol, which can cause your body to lose more fluid, and be wary of extra-cold drinks that may cause stomach cramps.

Avoiding hot and heavy meals also can reduce your body's overall temperature.

Limit time outside

Cut down on exercise during heat waves and rest often and in shady areas.

Try to limit your time outside to when it is cooler, like in the early morning and evening.

Check the car

Never leave children in a parked car -- even if windows are cracked open.

Monitor high-risk loved ones

Anyone can suffer from heat-related illness at any time, but these people are at greater risk:

-- Babies and young children

-- Overweight people

-- Those 65 years old or older

-- People who overexert during work or exercise

-- Those who suffer from heart disease or high blood pressure and those who take certain medications, including for depression, insomnia or poor circulation

Watch for signs of illness

Symptoms of heat stroke include:

-- Body temperature of 103 degrees or higher

-- Hot, red, dry or damp skin

-- Fast, strong pulse

-- Headache

-- Dizziness

-- Nausea

-- Confusion

-- Passing out

-- No longer sweating

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

-- Heavy sweating

-- Cold, pale, clammy skin

-- Fast, weak pulse

-- Nausea or vomiting

-- Muscle cramps

-- Feeling tired or weak

-- Headache

-- Passing out

If someone shows symptoms of heat stroke or heat exhaustion, call 911, move them somewhere cooler and use towels to cool down their body.

Don't forget about your furry friends! Here are some tips from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for how to keep your pets safe in the heat:

-- Provide plenty of fresh water so they don't get dehydrated-- Don't over-exercise pets-- Never leave pets alone in a parked car-- Watch for symptoms of overheating, which include excessive panting, difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate and drooling

Animals with flat faces, like pugs, can't pant as well and are more at risk of heat stroke. These pets, as well as older and overweight pets, should be kept inside as much as possible.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Christiane Amanpour reveals ovarian cancer diagnosis: What women should know

ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- When Christiane Amanpour, chief international anchor for CNN, announced Monday she has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, she did so with a message to women.

"I'm telling you this in the interest of transparency but, in truth, really, mostly as a shout-out to early diagnosis," Amanpour said on her nightly show on CNN International. "To urge women to educate themselves on this disease, to get all the regular screenings and scans that you can, to always listen to your bodies and of course to ensure that your legitimate medical concerns are not dismissed or diminished.”

Amanpour, who had been off the air for several weeks, shared with viewers that she had a "successful major surgery" to remove the cancer and is now "undergoing several months of chemotherapy for the very best possible long-term prognosis."

The London-based anchor added that she felt "confident" in her prognosis against ovarian cancer, which is the second most common gynecologic cancer in the United States and the most deadly, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

What women should know about ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer originates in the ovaries, which make female hormones and produce eggs, or in the nearby areas of the fallopian tubes and the peritoneum, the tissue that lines your abdominal wall, according to the CDC.

A woman's risk of getting ovarian cancer during her lifetime is about 1 in 78, while her lifetime chance of dying from ovarian cancer is about 1 in 108, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Ovarian cancer can affect females of all ages and races but is most common in women ages 63 and older and is more common in white women than Black women, according to the ACS.

While early signs of ovarian cancer can be vague, the main symptoms are abdominal pain or pelvic pain, bloating and an increase in urination, according to Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News chief medical correspondent and a board-certified OBGYN.

"If these symptoms or others last for more than half the month you want to alert a gynecologist and, again, talk about the fact that it could possibly be ovarian cancer," Ashton said Tuesday on ABC's Good Morning America.

It is particularly important for women to pay attention to symptoms of ovarian cancer and speak openly with their doctor because there is currently no reliable way to screen for the disease, according to Ashton.

In some cases, targeted use of pelvic scans and sonograms or a CA-125 blood test may be used to detect ovarian cancer, but additional testing is "not one size fits all and it is not recommended for all women," explained Ashton.

Treatment for ovarian cancer usually involves a combination of surgery and chemotherapy, according to the CDC, as was the case with Amanpour.

While there is no known way to prevent ovarian cancer, there are things associated with lowering the risk of getting ovarian cancer, including using birth control for five or more years, having given birth, breastfeeding, having had a hysterectomy, having had your ovaries removed and having had a tubal litigation, according to the CDC.

 

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Three COVID-19 vaccine doses can improve immunity in solid organ transplant recipients: Study

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(NEW YORK) -- An extra boost of a vaccine may mean more protection for organ transplant recipients in their fight against COVID-19, a new study finds.

Solid organ transplant recipients, including kidney, liver, heart and lungs, are part of a larger group of immunocompromised individuals, or those with weaker immune systems. Unlike the robust immune response and protection found in their immunocompetent counterparts, these individuals have been shown to have a blunted immune response when given COVID-19 mRNA vaccines.

These clinical observations are not surprising. Immunocompromised individuals were excluded from studies of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines.

Due to the administration of immune-modulating medications post-transplant, frequent procedures and multiple interactions with healthcare, transplant patients are more vulnerable to COVID-19. When combined with ineffective vaccination, these patients are further susceptible to breakthrough infections and dangerous complications.

New research from Johns Hopkins University Hospital shows that there may be a way to improve COVID-19 immunity in these patients: give them a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, followed 30 solid organ transplant patients at Johns Hopkins who had received two doses of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine, of either Pfizer or Moderna. COVID-19 immunity was estimated via antibody testing and was graded from no immunity to high immunity based on the level of COVID-19 antibodies found in the patients’ blood.

After two doses, 80% of these immunocompromised patients had no immunity, while 20% had “low immunity.” With the addition of a third COVID-19 vaccine, either Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer or Moderna, immunity increased in 33% of those with previously no immunity and in 100% of those with previously “low immunity.”

“This is a [study of] about 30 patients. Not a 200-patient formal trial with standardized timing and endpoints but it’s enough preliminary data to be very encouraging,” Dr. Dorry Segev, the associate vice chair of the Department of Surgery at Johns Hopkins University Hospital and author of the study, told ABC News.

“It gives me hope that transplant patients have immune systems that ultimately will be able to mount an effective response to the vaccine but might just need some help doing it. Like, for example, a third dose,” Segev said.

While the vaccine response was promising, experts note that immunity varied from patient to patient. This variability is likely dependent on patients’ transplant-associated medications and the time since their transplant.

“Those on antimetabolites,” a class of transplant-associated medications, “have a lower chance of a good antibody response,” said Segev. “Those who are closer to their transplant, and likely on a higher overall level of immunosuppression, are probably going to have a more challenging [response]. The further out from the transplant you are, the better of a chance you have of getting an immune response.”

While COVID-19 antibody testing was utilized in this study, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to not recommend its use in the general public. As stated on the CDC website, “antibody testing is not currently recommended to assess for immunity to COVID-19 following COVID-19 vaccination or to assess the need for vaccination in an unvaccinated person.”

“Going to get antibody tested on your own, right now, is going to lead to more chaos than information,” Segev said.

Patients with strong immune systems are more likely to have a robust immune response to vaccines. Therefore, an antibody test that shows “no response” is likely to be a false negative.

There is immunity developed at the cellular level after infection and vaccination that is more challenging to measure. These T and B cell responses may offer protection regardless of what an “antibody test” dictates.

The CDC also warns that each antibody test is different. Some offer binary testing, a simple yes or no result, whereas others indicate a spectrum of immunity. The clinical significance of antibody testing is still up in the air for the general population. However, in specific patient populations and clinical studies, it can be extremely helpful.

“In the context of a physician discussion or a trial, testing is very important. It functions as a reasonable surrogate for what else is going on under the surface,” Segev said.

With nearly 39,000 solid organ transplants in 2020 and 17,286 in this year alone, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, a significant number of patients may benefit from an additional COVID-19 vaccine. Due to low immunity, these patients already require additional doses of the hepatitis B and influenza vaccine in order to establish immunity. A third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine series would therefore not be unreasonable.

Further clinical testing is needed to better understand the use of three COVID-19 vaccines in immunocompromised patients.

“These results are too small to recommend three vaccine doses for such patients,” Dr. Vincent Racaniello, Higgins professor and physician in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at Columbia University, who was not involved in the study, told ABC News. “The results show a larger clinical trial should be done to assess the value of a third dose in this population.”

“My recommendation for any transplant patient today would be to get vaccinated but act unvaccinated,” said Segev. “I would not recommend for transplant patients right now to assume that they have protective immunity."

“Currently, such patients must be carefully monitored for infection and, if positive, should be treated as soon as possible with monoclonal antibodies,” Racaniello said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


During Pride Month, advocates focus on need for inclusive sex education in schools

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(NEW YORK) -- When Gabby Rodriguez was in high school in Texas, she said the only sexual education she received was about abstinence and referred to sex between a male and a female only.

Four years later, as a senior in college, Rodriguez identifies as bisexual and says she often thinks about how her high school sex education affected her life many years later.

"I think for me, not having sex education and not knowing that it’s okay to explore, really hindered me in knowing who I was," Rodriguez, 23, told ABC News' Good Morning America. "I was so scared to be who I was."

Rodriguez is now part of a growing movement of people working to evolve how children are taught sex education in schools to make it more inclusive and affirming.

As campaign director of #MyLASexEd, an initiative that promotes sex education reform in Louisiana, Rodriguez said she wants to see students taught sexual health, consent, sexualities, sexual preferences and more.

"Once I found myself, I found that I had a voice and it was pretty important, the things that I needed to say," she said. "And I realized I wasn’t alone, that there were a lot more people with me who didn’t have the education."

Only seven states and the District of Columbia have state laws or some kind of regulatory guidance requiring sex education be provided to students that is specifically inclusive of LGBTQ+ youth, according to a report released ahead of Pride Month by a coalition of 10 policy and health organizations, including Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign.

Fewer than 8% of LGBTQ+ students have ever received LGBTQ+-inclusive sex education in school, and for LGBTQ youth who are Black, Indigenous and other people of color, inclusive sex education is even less accessible, according to the report, "A Call to Action: LGBTQ+ Youth Need Inclusive Sex Education," which analyzed hundreds of sex-education studies.

There are also six states that require only negative information be provided on homosexuality in sex education, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health and rights research organization.

"Many of us have grown up in an environment where we have never been able to be our true selves," said Preston Mitchum, policy director at Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity (URGE) and a co-author of the "A Call to Action" report. "For me in particular, growing up as a Black queer boy in poor neighborhoods, I wasn’t talked to about any of this."

Mitchum said he has observed how many of his peers, including himself, came out well after graduating from high school, saying, "The lack of community that many of us were afraid to build out of fear still disheartens me to this day."

What inclusive sex education looks like in classrooms

To be more inclusive, Mitchum notes that sex education needs to include depictions of LGBTQ+ people, not rooted in stereotypes and caricatures, use gender-neutral or expansive language -- like they, them and partner -- and cover everything from healthy relationships to sexual assault prevention.

Brittany McBride, associate director for sex education at Advocates for Youth, a sexual health-focused nonprofit organization, works with school districts across the country in developing inclusive and comprehensive sex education curriculums.

She said much of her work is focused on educating educators about the purpose of sex education as well as what it means to teach it in an inclusive way.

"People think that when we talk about sex education we’re talking about the parts that are covered up by a bathing suit and also pregnancy," said McBride. "Sex education is like a life skills course at this point. It’s so much more than just anatomy and how to prevent an unintended pregnancy."

Sex education teaches students skills like how to communicate effectively, how to end a relationship, how to practice consent and how to practice healthy relationships, according to McBride.

"In the past, what wasn’t prioritized was making sure that things were inclusive for our LGBTQ+ students in all of this because all we talked about was preventing pregnancy and STIs," she said. "It’s important to understand that LGBTQ+ students can also get pregnant and get STIs and they also have a right to this information like every other student in the classroom."

"That is what I’m working towards when I say inclusive sex education. I want it to be affirming. We want our educators to be able to provide a space where all of our students feel seen and reflected," McBride said. "They’re getting the information they actually need versus what is being served as the status quo."

The key to an inclusive curriculum, according to McBride, is making the topics of gender and sexuality differences more than just a single lesson.

"It’s not just, ‘Okay, today is going to be the day when we have LGBTQ+ class,'" she said. "These are essential skills that need to be integrated in everything that we’re doing."

"Instead of saying boyfriend and girlfriend, say partner. Remove gender binary pronouns from the curriculum when you’re using examples. Look to include examples of families of all types throughout the entire curriculum," McBride continued. "It’s about integrating these changes into every single delivery of every class as opposed to having a one-day. This is the day to check off this box."

The push for change

Across the country, 39 states and the District of Columbia mandate sex education and/or HIV education. Nearly 30 states require that abstinence be stressed in sex education classes, and 19 states require instruction on the importance of engaging in sexual activity only within marriage to be provided, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

The type of sex education that is funded federally can swing with each presidential administration from abstinence-focused, or sexual risk avoidance -- teaching students only to avoid sex to avoid unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) -- to comprehensive sex education that includes evidence-based information about contraception as well as abstinence.

Advocates of inclusive sex education are pushing for Congress to pass the Real Education and Access for Healthy Youth Act (REAHYA), which was introduced in May and would require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to award grants for comprehensive sex education. The bill also mandates instruction that is "Inclusive of young people with varying gender identities, gender expressions, and sexual orientations," according to Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ).

Advocates point to data they say shows that accurate and inclusive sex education is important for students' mental and physical health.

Youth ages 15 to 24 account for almost half of new sexually transmitted infections in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The teen pregnancy rate in the U.S. has been continually falling, but remains "substantially higher than in other western industrialized nations," according to the CDC.

When it comes to mental health, LGBTQ+ youth seriously contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of heterosexual youth and are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth, according to the Trevor Project, a national organization that provides crisis intervention services to LGBTQ+ youth.

"I see people in my DMs who are like, ‘[My school] didn't teach us anything," said Dr. Jennifer Lincoln, an Oregon-based OBGYN who has gone viral for answering sex education questions on social media. "That’s unfortunate that they feel they have to go online and not [learn it] in a curriculum."

"When kids are not getting information or not feeling welcomed at school, they have way worse outcomes," she said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Vermont relaxes COVID-19 restrictions after crossing major vaccine milestone

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(New York) -- Vermont crossed a major vaccine milestone Monday as more than 80% of the state's eligible population has at least one shot, according to state health department data.

As of Monday afternoon, over 444,000 Vermont residents over the age of 12 have received at least one vaccine dose, the Vermont Department of Health said. Vermont is the first state to cross this threshold, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Gov. Phil Scott celebrated the occasion by bringing the Green Mountain State one step closer to its pre-pandemic life. He signed an order that removed the mandate for masks, social distancing and capacity limits for indoor places.

"Our work continues, but Vermonters can be proud of what they've done," Scott tweeted.

Vermont businesses can still issue COVID-19 related restrictions without any penalty from the state if they wish to do so, according to the governor's order.

More than 390,000 residents, roughly 70% of the population, are fully vaccinated, according to the Vermont Health Department.

As of Monday, the national average for vaccinations among Americans 12 and up is 61.4% with at least one dose and 51.1% with both doses, according to the CDC. Seven other states have over 70% of their population above the age of 12 with at least one dose, according to the CDC.

Health experts and the governor credited the high vaccination numbers for greatly reducing the number of Vermont coronavirus cases.

Vermont opened up vaccinations to all eligible residents in April. The seven-day average of new cases has dropped from a peak of 213 at the end of March to just eight on June 13, state data showed.

Scott encouraged all eligible residents to get their shots if they haven't already.

Vermont is following in line with the rest of the nation with declining vaccine demand. The seven-day average of new daily doses administered in the state has shrunk from 8,933 on May 26 to 3,187 on June 14, state data showed.

Three Vermont counties -- Essex, Orleans and Caledonia -- are the only ones where the rates of eligible residents with one shot are below 70%, according to the state data. Essex County is the lowest with 57% as of Monday.

Anyone who needs help scheduling a free vaccine appointment can log onto vaccines.gov.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Novavax COVID-19 vaccine: How it works and other things you should know

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Maryland-based biotech company Novavax said Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine was shown to be highly effective in clinical trials, which puts it on track to become the fourth vaccine available in the United States.

Given the abundance of vaccines in the U.S., Novavax's vaccine may be available first in low- and middle-income countries through COVAX, the global vaccine sharing alliance. "At least in the foreseeable future, we’re going to have a bigger impact" outside the United States, Stanley Erck, president and CEO of Novavax, told the Wall Street Journal.

To date, Novavax has pledged 1.1 billion doses of its vaccine to COVAX.

While the vaccine still needs to be greenlighted by U.S. regulators, Novavax is on track to manufacture 100 million doses per month by the end of the third quarter and 150 million doses per month by the end of the fourth quarter. The company said it intends to apply for emergency use authorization from the Food & Drug Administration by this fall and plans to share more details from its Phase 3 trials as that data becomes available.

Here's what we know about Novavax so far.

How does the Novavax vaccine work?
Novavax's COVID-19 vaccine is a two-shot formula that can be stored at refrigerator temperatures and utilizes different technology than the United States' three existing vaccines.

Pfizer and Moderna use mRNA technology that teaches cells to make a protein that prompts an immune response. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses a viral vector, or a modified version of a different virus, to prompt cells to produce the protein that triggers an immune response.

In contrast, Novavax is a protein subunit vaccine, meaning it uses a fragment of a harmless protein of the virus that's grown in a cell culture and stimulates an immune response.

How does Novavax compare to the other vaccines available in the US?
The Novavax vaccine was shown to be 90.4% effective overall, with 100% efficacy against moderate and severe cases of COVID-19, according to the company.

That puts Novavax on par with the two-shot Pfizer (95%) and Moderna (94%) vaccines and more effective than the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was 66% effective in clinical trials.

Does the Novavax vaccine work against variants?
Yes. The Novavax vaccine was 93.2% effective against circulating "variants of concern" and "variants of interest," according to the company.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines "variants of concern" as variants showing evidence of being more transmissible, causing more severe disease or causing significant reduction in antibody neutralization, which may make vaccines or treatments less effective. "Variants of interest" is a lower classification. It refers to variants that may have the potential to affect transmission, diagnostics or the effectiveness of vaccines or treatments, according to the CDC's definition.

How do Novavax's side effects compare to other vaccines?
Novavax's side effects are relatively mild and similar to commonly reported side effects for Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

The most common side effects reported in Novavax's trials were injection site pain and tenderness lasting less than three days, as well as fatigue, headache and muscle pain lasting less than two days.

ABC News' Morgan Winsor contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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