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Health

Lost taste and smell from COVID-19? A new cookbook aims to help

AsiaVision/iStock

(NEW YORK) — One of the most common COVID-19 symptoms is the loss of taste and smell. For some people, those symptoms can last weeks. Now, a new cookbook aims to help people recover some of the joy of cooking and eating – even while senses are still inhibited.

The cookbook, "Taste & Flavour," was written by chefs Ryan Riley and Kimberley Duke. It blends aspects of culinary science and medical research by looking at taste, smell and other sensory perception to help people who lost their senses enjoy food again.

Some estimates show that loss of smell from COVID-19 typically lasts two to three weeks for roughly more than half of patients who test positive for the virus. According to one study from Dr. Piccirillo from the Department of Otolaryngology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, 95% of people who experience these problems recover completely.

While the science surrounding the changes in taste and smell from COVID-19 is still evolving, researchers have noted that for some patients when they do regain smell, fragrances they used to enjoy smell different, even unpleasant to them. This could be due to olfactory cells having to “rewire” as they recover.

According to Dr. Barry Smith, a scientist who worked on the cookbook, it’s possible to use food therapeutically.

While the recipes in the book won’t cure the loss of taste and smell, they can help people still find enjoyment in eating while these senses recover on their own.

Many people who experience these symptoms are still able to taste certain flavors such as sugar, salt, lemon juice or even the bitterness of coffee, according to Smith. He said his work showed that when taste and smell are altered, other senses can help people enjoy their food with certain textures. These can include stimulating saliva with umami flavor and stimulating the trigeminal nerve, which amongst other roles, regulates spicy-food sensations like stinging, cooling or even burning.

Riley provided an example of these principles with one of his favorite dishes from the book, miso butter potatoes with green herb vinegar. Miso and potatoes both have a strong umami flavor, which has been helpful for those struggling with changes in taste because of how well they elicit saliva. Smell, which he explained accounts for 80% of taste, is also satisfied via the vinegar, pepper and mint found in this dish. Mint, for example, stimulates the trigeminal nerve.

Meanwhile, the chefs said that garlic and onion, which normally are excellent bases for many dishes, are often found to be repulsive to patients suffering from altered taste and smell.

“It was all about having to create what's called safe, non-triggering foods. We know things like potatoes are really good for that, pasta rice, quite simple flavors," Riley told ABC News. "So then we then use the life kitchen principles, looking at using a lot of umami, which is our fifth taste or soy sauce, mushrooms, parmesan, and trying to add in all of that as the depth and the base that you would originally get from things like garlic and onions to create delicious tasting food.”

For people experiencing these symptoms, it’s not just about food. Studies show losing these senses or having them altered in some way is linked with depression and other mood symptoms.

“We saw that people were really struggling," Duke told ABC News. "They felt like they didn't have anyone who was helping them and, and they didn't feel like their partners and families understood what they were going through.”

“There's also a huge mental health aspect of this," Riley said. "We know from cancer that once you start not enjoying food, you don't eat as much, which is detrimental to the body. If you don't taste something for eight months, it can become really depressing."

And there are other risks. Lack of smell can also put people at risk for fires and food poisoning as they lack the ability to smell spoiled food or even smoke.

Duke and Riley embarked on this research prior to the pandemic to help cancer patients, who may also suffer from a loss of taste and smell because of the effects of chemotherapy.

"Both me and Kimberly lost our mothers to cancer when she was 15, and I was 20. And I wanted to become a food writer and a chef," Riley said. They founded a non-profit, Life Kitchen. Last year, their cookbook became the number four bestselling book in the UK.

For COVID-19 recovered patients, experts said more research is needed into exactly how some senses are processed in the brain before further treatments can be perfected.

But for now, Riley and Duke are hoping a few thoughtful recipes might bring some relief.

The cookbook can be downloaded for free.

Samuel Rothman, MD, is a psychiatry resident at the BronxCare Health System in New York City and a contributor to ABC's Medical Unit.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


What to know about expected but rare 'breakthrough' COVID cases

RyanKing999/iStock

(NEW YORK) -- With one in four adults in the United States now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, health departments and scientific studies have documented what's known as "breakthrough" cases, or people who got infected or sick despite being vaccinated.

Such instances are exceptionally rare, but expected, experts say.

"You will see breakthrough infections in any vaccination when you're vaccinating literally tens and tens and tens of millions of people," Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a White House press briefing on March 26. "In some respects, that's not surprising," Fauci said.

COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective -- but none are 100% effective, meaning a small number of people might become infected after being fully vaccinated -- but those infections are typically mild, or symptom-free.

Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, called the roughly 95% efficacy rates for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines "spectacularly effective." In clinical trials, the vaccines were virtually 100% effective at keeping people out of the hospital, he added, noting that "there were still some milder infections that took place."

How common are COVID-19 'breakthrough' cases?

"It's pretty darn rare," Dr. Shira Abeles, an infectious disease specialist at UC San Diego Health, said of breakthrough cases. "I think it'll remain that way," she added.

Recent real-world studies have confirmed that low breakthrough rate. Research that Abeles helped conduct in Southern California between December 2020 and February 2021, found that less than 1% of the 36,600 health care workers who were studied tested positive for COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated, meaning both doses plus two weeks for the immunity to build -- with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

Not a single vaccinated health care worker who contracted COVID-19 was hospitalized or died and those who did get sick appeared to have milder symptoms than the unvaccinated, according to the researchers.

An even bigger investigation conducted by the health department in Washington state found that of 1.2 million fully vaccinated people, there was evidence of 102 breakthrough cases, representing less than 0.01% of fully vaccinated state residents. While most of those patients experienced mild symptoms, at least eight were hospitalized and the health department is investigating two potential breakthrough cases where the patients died.

How do COVID-19 'breakthroughs' happen?

It's not completely clear.

People who are very old or immunocompromised may be at higher risk for breakthrough cases, because their bodies might produce a less powerful immune response to the vaccine.

"For every vaccine that we use, immunocompromised people and the very old don't respond as well as healthy people and younger people," Schaffner said. In the case of the Washington state investigation into the two potential breakthrough COVID deaths, both patients were older than 80 years old and had underlying health issues.

Similar to the flu, the higher risk for older and immunocompromised people is one reason it's important for young, healthy people to get the COVID-19 vaccine. If everyone's vaccinated, it's harder for the virus to find targets, which protects those at higher risk.

"We should all get vaccinated to protect ourselves as well as to protect the weaker among us," Schaffner.

As for breakthrough cases among young or healthy people, "every once in a while, something happens for biological reasons we can't quite explain," Schaffner said.

Those who do become sick after being fully vaccinated should still have partial protection. Instead of going to the hospital or dying, they may have less severe symptoms, like feeling run down or developing a slight fever. "That's the strength of our study," Abeles noted. "We were doing screening in a population, so we were picking up asymptomatic disease and mild illness," she said. "That's generally what you're going to see."

Another possibility that public health officials are investigating is whether new variants of the virus caused some of the reported breakthrough cases.

"One of the important things that will be done and must be done is to sequence the genome of the virus that's the breakthrough virus," Fauci said. "It would be very important to see if they broke through with the wild-type virus, which would indicate a real diminution of immunity, or whether it broke through with one of the variants, which would be much more explainable if you don't have enough cross-reactivity."

So far, it seems that the currently authorized vaccines diminish the severity of infection regardless of the virus strain. This is why experts say it is of utmost importance for even people previously infected with COVID to get vaccinated. Knowing whether breakthrough cases were caused by the virus the vaccines were designed to protect against or by new variants could inform scientists how to approach future vaccinations and booster shots. If a variant of concern is breaking through, scientists in the lab might develop a vaccine targeting the variant's spike protein mutations, Abeles explained. If the virus is one that the community has already been exposed to, and it appears immunity is waning, health experts might suggest a booster of the same vaccine, she added.

"It's a moving target and we're still learning so much," Abeles said. "We'll be paying close attention."

In the meantime, it's crucial to keep infection levels low so that there's less evolutionary pressure on the virus to mutate into more variants of concern. "We want to keep them at just a few, rather than let the virus have too many opportunities," Abeles said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Baby heads home after nearly 700 days in hospital

Francesca Garnetti

(ANN ARBOR, Mich.) -- A Michigan baby is now home with her family after a hospital stay that lasted 694 days.

Valentina Garnetti was diagnosed in utero with hypoplastic left heart syndrome -- a condition that affects normal blood flow through the heart and causes the left side of the heart to not form correctly. The 1-year-old remained in

"She's the happiest baby in the whole entire world, despite everything's she's been through," mom Francesca Garnetti told Good Morning America. "She's the greatest joy. She loves everyone ... she just loves her life, genuinely."

Valentina was born at Mott Children's Hospital and stayed in its pediatric cardiothoracic intensive care unit.

Valentina has had six surgeries, including four open-heart surgeries and was once placed on life support for 14 days. Her first open-heart surgery came when she was 2 days old, and her most recent was in October.

"It's terrifying, I don't think you can prepare yourself for something like that," Garnetti said.

During her stay, Valentina became close with her six primary nurses: Erin, Wendy, Denise, Amanda, Stephanie and Liana. Garnetti even named Liana as Valentina's godmother.

"I've relied on my faith a lot and she helped me through it," Garnetti said of Liana. "On a personal level, if anything were to happen to me, she loves Valentina. She knows how to care for her and she would, without a doubt."

Dr. Mary Olive is a pediatric cardiologist at Mott Children’s Hospital who worked with Valentina.

"Valentina had a long and difficult journey here at Mott, but she continued to surprise us with her strength and resilience," Olive told GMA. "It was inspiring to see our whole congenital heart center team come together to determine how to best care for her."

"Her mom was also very strong and dedicated to doing whatever it took to help her get home," Olive added. "We were just so happy to see Valentina get to go home and spend time with her siblings and family."

On March 24, the hospital had a celebratory sendoff for Valentina.

Valentina is now home with her sisters, Gianna, 5, and Adriana, 1. Garnetti said Valentina is happy to finally be playing with other children.

Garnetti is now connecting with parents of kids who have heart conditions through the Facebook page, Valentina's Journey.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


A next-gen Army COVID vaccine you've never heard of has just begun human trials

Matt Seyler/ABC News

(SILVER SPRING, Md.) -- As more than 100 million Americans were needled and inoculated against COVID-19 with doses produced by pharmaceutical powerhouses like Pfizer and Moderna, a scrappy team of scientists in an Army lab just outside the nation's capital quietly continued manipulating proteins, testing monkeys and working to conceive a vaccine of the future.

The product born of their experience, reason and labor was injected into its first human test subject on Tuesday.

"We want to win this battle, but we also want to win the long war," said Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad, who leads the vaccine effort as director of the emerging infectious diseases branch of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Once the virus was sequenced in January 2020, he and his then modest team of 10 strategized and took on a blistering 24/7 effort, whittling a selection of two dozen prototypes down to a single vaccine candidate within six months.

Over the last decade Modjarrad also led the Army's vaccine efforts for Ebola and the Zika virus and was principal investigator of its campaign against MERS, a disease itself caused by a coronavirus. And though WRAIR is the oldest biomedical research institute within the Department of Defense, the emerging infectious diseases branch is still young.

"We're not Apple now -- we're Apple 40 years ago, in the garage," Modjarrad said with a laugh.

Despite the frantic pace, Modjarrad -- who co-invented @BobWoodruff reports on a vaccine candidate being developed by military scientists at Walter Reed, and what makes this vaccine a potential weapon against variants and future pandemics. https://t.co/89rGo4QEuG pic.twitter.com/WA09ftz97M

— ABC News Live (@ABCNewsLive) April 8, 2021 ">WRAIR's eventual vaccine candidate -- knew it wouldn't be the first to the public.

"This one takes a little bit longer in designing and then manufacturing," he said.

From the beginning his focus was on next-generation threats, ones that could be thriving in unknown bat caves as you read this sentence, waiting to make contact and proliferate inside humans.

"Even though we got the (available vaccines) within a year, how many hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. and how many millions of people globally lost their lives before the vaccine was even available?" Modjarrad asked ABC News' Bob Woodruff during an exclusive visit to the lab last week. "We want to get to a point where the vaccine is already out there -- maybe already in people's arms -- before the next variant, next stream, next species of coronavirus occurs."

The three vaccines already authorized for use in the U.S. work by feeding the body genetic instructions to create the spike protein that is found on the surface of the virus. Once the body creates the protein, the immune system is alerted and begins forming antibodies. It's a safe way of triggering a similar immune response as one a person would have after contracting the actual virus.

The WRAIR vaccine skips both the instruction and creation steps, bringing the already-formed spike protein straight into the arm along with an immune-boosting adjuvant compound, quickly starting the antibody response.

And unlike other protein-based vaccines being tested, the WRAIR candidate presents virus-looking nanoparticles, each with a consistent array of 24 spike proteins arranged in small bouquets of three protruding from a ferritin base.

"There's a lot of theories as to why something presented in this fashion gives such a good immune response, but in some ways you can see it looks like a virus as well," Modjarrad said. "So it has some properties that educate the immune response in a way that it gives you a very strong, but also a broad response."

Test results with thousands of mice and dozens of monkeys have been promising.

"We think (other) vaccines are probably going to be protective against new variants, but they might be decreased in their protection," Modjarrad said. "What we've seen with our vaccine so far in animals ... is that the vaccine is not decreased in effectiveness against those variants at all. And it is effective against other coronaviruses like SARS-1. So what we have developed now is starting to look like a pan-SARS vaccine ... and we're going to start testing everything in between."

If successful in clinical trials, WRAIR's vaccine could become common among the U.S. population, possibly as a booster for already-vaccinated people.

Being a military lab, practicality was a primary design concern, which could incidentally give their product global appeal. In particular, it is highly stable and doesn't require special freezing.

"That means you can put it in a cooler on the back of a motorcycle in the Amazon or the Sahara or wherever, and that vaccine should still be OK," Modjarrad said.

But the "if" remains. Though the WRAIR scientists brim with confidence in conversation, they are soberly aware that their product has yet to be proven in humans.

"They have some very early data to suggest in the laboratory that the immune response evoked by this vaccine will cover a variety of different strains," said Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventative medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. "Whether that translates actually into protection in people against the variety of strains -- that remains to be determined. Long journeys, first steps."

On Tuesday, retired Army Col. Francis Holinaty stepped up to be the first to be injected in WRAIR's Phase 1 trial.

"Over my 30-year career I have served in many places around the world in many different operational settings, some more arduous than others, some more hazardous than others," Holinaty said. "And one day I'm on the Metro, and it's almost as if it was fate -- I just looked up and I saw a poster, and I saw Walter Reed, and it took me a while to process what this poster was saying. And when it dawned on me that they were trying to do a trial for the COVID-19, I saw this as another opportunity to just serve."

Holinaty can't be sure whether he received a dose of the vaccine or a placebo, but said afterward that he felt fine. He wanted people to know that there are many ways to fight the pandemic.

"You don't have to be in the military, you don't have to be a first responder, but you can help all," he said. "And if you have a calling to help people this is just one of the ways you can do it."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


COVID-19 origins: What to know about the search for the start of the virus

CasPhotography/iStock

(NEW YORK) -- More than a year after a "mysterious pneumonia" sickened workers at a seafood market in China, scientists are still gathering clues about where SARS-CoV-2 -- the virus that causes COVID-19 -- emerged from.

"It's critical to understand where this virus came from, so that we can understand how to stop future outbreaks going forward," said Anne Rimoin, an infectious disease epidemiologist at UCLA.

The investigation into the virus' origins is crucial for public health and science reasons, but it has also sparked tension among world powers, especially between the United States and China, whose leaders have accused one another of lack of transparency and xenophobia during the pandemic.

"It's not about finger-pointing -- it's just about understanding it, so we know how to do better in the future," Rimoin said.

To that end, on Jan. 14, 2021, the World Health Organization deployed a group of 17 international experts to Wuhan to work with Chinese scientists on an in-depth investigation into the virus' origins.

Scientists have long said that SARS-CoV-2 has zoonotic origins, meaning that it likely jumped from animals to people when humans came in contact with an animal infected with the virus. That contact could include handling the infected animal, eating it or preparing the animal for market, according to Rimoin.

However, experts didn't know exactly how the virus had gotten into people and reaching a definitive conclusion about SARS-CoV-2's origins might take years. They also don't know where or when the virus first made its way into humans and several studies suggest that it may have been present elsewhere in the world -- perhaps circulating at low levels -- before the major outbreak in Wuhan, China.

"You're trying to reconstruct events from a year and a half ago with incomplete sampling and data," Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, director of Columbia University’s Center for Infection and Immunity, told ABC News. "We may never know exactly what happened."

If previous infectious disease investigations are any clue, the virus' origins could remain shrouded in mystery. The best comparison is the 2003 SARS outbreak, which was caused by a close cousin of the virus that causes COVID-19 and eventually traced back to a single population of horseshoe crab bats.

But that search took more than five years. "I think they were quite lucky," Vincent Racaniello, a microbiology and immunology professor at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, said of the SARS investigation. "We've still not found the source of Ebola virus outbreaks after many years of looking," he added. "It's not easy."

The joint WHO-China report is considered a first step in what will likely be a years-long investigation released its findings last week. But the report itself has been mired in controversy. Following its release, the United States and 13 other countries raised concerns about the report in a joint statement, arguing that the international investigation was "significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples."

But many experts say the report, though imperfect, is an important first step.

The investigators explored four major theories of how the virus spilled over into humans, ranking those ranked those theories in order of likelihood, from "very likely" to "extremely unlikely."

The intermediary host theory: This theory proposes that the virus was transmitted from an original animal host to an intermediate host, such as a minks, pangolins, rabbits, raccoon dogs, domesticated cats, civets or ferret badgers, and then directly infected humans through live contact with the second animal.

WHO-China investigation conclusion: "likely to very likely"

The zoonotic spillover theory: The zoonotic spillover theory suggests that SARS-CoV-2 was passed directly from an animal, most likely a bat, to humans. This transmission could have happened through farming, hunting or other close contact between humans and animals.

WHO-China investigation conclusion: "possible to likely"

The frozen food chain theory: The "cold-chain" theory suggests that transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from animals to humans might have happened through contaminated frozen food. A frozen food product contaminated with animal waste that contained SARS-CoV-2 could have transferred the virus to humans without any direct live contact between humans and animals.

WHO-China investigation conclusion: "possible"

As part of the investigation, scientists returned to the Huanan seafood market associated with the first known cluster of cases in Wuhan. They also visited the Hubei Provincial Hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine, where some of the first COVID-19 cases were treated, and looked at viral sequencing data. That viral sequencing showed that different minor variants of SARS-CoV-2 were spreading in Wuhan in December 2020.

"That again suggests that maybe the virus had been circulating a little bit longer than people had realized," said Dominic Dwyer, an epidemiologist and member of the WHO investigative team.

Viral sequencing also showed that the Huanan market likely wasn't the primary source of the outbreak. While many early cases were connected to the market, a similar number of cases were associated with other markets, or no markets at all, the WHO-China report found.

"The market was certainly an amplifier, but probably not the actual source of the whole outbreak," Dwyer said.

One of the last places the investigators visited was the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the target of a politically charged theory that the virus had accidentally leaked from a lab. The report cited high biosafety levels at labs in Wuhan, no evidence of respiratory illness in workers and no storage or lab activities on coronaviruses or bat viruses.

Prior genomic sequencing showed that the virus had natural origins and the WHO-China team ranked the lab leak theory as "extremely unlikely."

But Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO's director-general, said that he didn't think the team's assessment of the theory was extensive enough.

Further data and studies will be needed to reach more robust conclusions, Tedros said at a press conference about the report's findings, noting that he was ready to deploy additional missions with specialist experts to do so.

"Science can't rule things out like that," Peter Daszak, a zoologist and member of the WHO investigative team, said of the lab leak theory. "You can only really show positive findings, you can't prove a negative. But what we did find is that the lab escape was extremely unlikely."

The most likely pathway, the report found, was the first theory, that the virus passed from a bat to an intermediary animal and then to humans. According to Daszak, next steps for investigation could include tracing back the first cases of the virus; investigating market suppliers for unusual spikes in antibodies; and examining locations with concentrations of animals we know are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2.

Rimoin hopes the pandemic has shown that disease surveillance is key to preventing future outbreaks, not just reacting to them. As population growth and climate change push humans further into animal habitats, "we will see more viruses jumping from animals to humans and we're going to see more disease emergence events," Rimoin said.

"An infection anywhere is potentially an infection everywhere," she said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


With obesity on the rise, the best diet may be tailored to our genes, experts say

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(NEW YORK) -- With the COVID-19 pandemic drawing more attention to America's obesity problem, a growing body of research indicates that our genetics should be used to determine what we eat.

Decades of research shows that, at least for most people, the secret to staving off disease is getting plenty of exercise and eating diet high in vegetables and with a healthy mix of fats, protein and carbs. But now a budding field called "nutrigenomics" aims to offer people personalized lifestyle advice based on each person's DNA.

Though still a new area of scientific study, researchers hope food plans based on genetic makeups will be more effective than traditional one-size-fits-all recommendations.

"Given the greater concern for high blood pressure, high blood sugar and obesity, and their association with severe COVID-19, I foresee a great emphasis on personalized nutrition, with the use of data from genetic tests and monitoring blood glucose, to help people make positive choices and decrease their risk," said Brigid Titgemeier, a functional medicine dietitian and founder of beingbrigid.com.

Decades after the Human Genome Project mapped the genes of humans, scientists now are using this information to better understand how food can modify predispositions to disease and immune functions.

Nutrigenomics is described as a genetic approach to personalized nutrition, including not just diet but sleep patterns and one's overall lifestyle.

"It embraces this idea that despite all of us being 99.9% the same, there is that 0.1% that truly determines how you respond to the world around you," said Dr. Yael Joffe, founder and chief science officer of 3X4 Genetics.

"Following a diet that is restrictive or one seen on social media may result in some improvement, but they aren't sustainable and aren't data driven," said Dr. Marvin Singh, an integrative gastroenterologist and founder of Precisione Clinic. "Nutrigenomics provides an understanding of your predispositions and deficiencies. In terms of weight loss, it can provide data on particular gene mutations you have that might favor you acting or eating a certain way -- or even exercise patterns that may be more helpful."

Accessing one's genetic makeup can be done with saliva sampled from a cheek swab and sent to a lab. Using the data a subject gets back, Joffe said, can help inform that individual which foods can be eaten to turn on or off certain genes.

"We are all going to respond a bit differently when we eat a salad," said Kristin Kirkpatrick, a nutritionist and the president of KAK Nutrition consulting, "since there is no diet that is one-size-fits-all. We need to look at our DNA if we want to lose weight."

Diet and exercise is the first recommended treatment for the majority of the chronic diseases in the U.S. -- hypertension, obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol. But personalized nutrition based on genetics, research has shown, is more effective in reaching long-term weight-loss goals.

"Genetics is an extremely powerful behavioral tool to implement long-standing changes," Joffe added. "It's about you. It's your story. Not something you read on social media or the internet."

In his clinic, Singh finds that patients are more likely to stick to treatment plans tailored to their own genetics, so having access to that data helps him provide a framework for better treatments.

"A low-salt diet is recommended if someone has high blood pressure," Singh said, "but everyone's blood pressure may not respond to this. Using genetic information, I can see if a person's blood pressure would respond favorably to this dietary change and if there is something else that is driving their disease."

By changing variables such as sleep patterns, diet and exercise, it is ultimately difficult to measure the impact of a genetic test, explained Joffe.

Nutrigenomics is new and constantly evolving, and experts told ABC News there's much left to learn.

"More research needs to be done so we can have even more specific dietary guidance," Titgemeier said. "Right now, certain mutations in our genes can tell us to have a diet low in saturated fat, however, what we don't know is the percentage."

Health care consumers also need to be careful their genetic information doesn't end up in the wrong hands -- some companies have been found to collect and sell data to third parties. One of the best ways to avoid being scammed? Talk to your doctor.

"The best way to start is with your primary care [physician] and asking if they know someone who does nutrigenomics or if they can get some information on this," Kirkpatrick said.

Eventually, experts said, using food as medicine may help reduce the risk of other serious diseases such as Alzheimer's dementia or heart disease.

"It's not the supplements or the food that we eat, it's what the food does to our body to make it heal itself," Joffe said. "This area of gene expression is really the extraordinary power of where nutrition lies."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


CDC Director expects all schools will be fully open for in-person learning in September

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(NEW YORK) -- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky anticipates that all schools will be fully in person and no longer remote in September 2021.

"We should anticipate, come September 2021, that schools should be full-fledged in person and all of our children back in the classroom," the CDC director told ABC News Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton during an Instagram Live conversation on ABC News.

She said that parents and teachers should anticipate this regardless of whether children are vaccinated or not. "We can vaccinate teachers, we can test, there's so much we can do," she said.

Asked when she expects children will become eligible to get vaccinated, Walensky said by mid-May. Pfizer recently released promising data indicating its vaccine is safe and effective for children ages 12 to 15.

"Mid-May maybe we'll be able to have a vaccine from Pfizer that we'll be able to do down to 12," she said, pending Food and Drug Administration authorization for that age group.

She expects Moderna will soon follow Pfizer because those studies are currently underway. She said she is hopeful that by summertime there will be two vaccines available for children 12 and up. Johnson and Johnson Is expected to start their pediatric trials in the months ahead.

Walensky doesn't anticipate the vaccine will be authorized for children younger than 12 before the end of the year.

Walensky's comments came shortly after she said during a White House briefing that the more contagious variant of coronavirus that originated in the U.K., the B.1.1.7 variant, has become the dominant strain in the U.S.

All three vaccines authorized in the U.S. -- Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson -- are believed to work well even against the U.K. variant.

Walensky stressed that the multiple COVID variants are serving to reinforce her goal of wanting a large portion of the U.S. population to get vaccinated.

"My goal is to have people want to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated," she said.

Watch the full interview here.

Asked if she agrees that 85% is the percentage of the population that should be vaccinated, in agreement with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Walensky declined to put a number on it. She said estimates on the right percentage for herd immunity vary dramatically.

"[It] depends on how transmissible the virus is, and that we estimate that number based on the transmissibility. ... What we know is that transmissibility is actually a little bit of a moving target, because with more variants, some of these variants are more transmissible. So the more transmissible the variant, the more likely we're going to need a larger proportion of the population vaccinated," she said.
UK variant has become most dominant COVID strain in US, CDC says

On Wednesday, the CDC reported a seven-day average of 62,000 cases a day.

During a White House briefing last week, Walensky urged caution amid fears of a fourth wave. Then days later, the CDC updated its guidance on travel for fully vaccinated people. The guidance said that fully vaccinated people can travel within the U.S. without COVID-19 testing or quarantines as long as they continue to take precautions like wearing a mask, socially distancing and washing their hands.

Asked about the "confusing" messaging by Ashton, Walensky said, "sometimes the messages are complex" and that people working in public health aren't treating individuals, they are treating the population.

"We need to be able to offer people who are vaccinated things that they are able to do if we want people to come forward and get vaccinated: visit with their loved ones, visit their grandchildren, perhaps travel on a plane at lower risk. That's an individual message," she said. "While we have fully vaccinated 19% of the population, 80% of the population remains unvaccinated and that is certainly enough to cause a surge. And so on a population level, we still very much need to practice good public health measures -- masking mitigation, distancing."

She still stood behind President Joe Biden's comments that the Fourth of July holiday will look a little more normal.

"I would say still practice the mitigation strategies, still mask, still distance, try and keep the crowds to a minimum," Walensky said. "Because I really do think that when we get most of this country vaccinated, we can get back to a healthier, more normal evening at the baseball field."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Reproductive life span of women increasing, study shows

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(NEW YORK) -- The reproductive years for women in the United States may be increasing, according to a new study.

On average, the reproductive years for women increased from age 35 to 37.1, according to the study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The age of 35 has for decades been regarded in the medical community as the age when women's reproductive systems slow down and it becomes more difficult to have and sustain a pregnancy. Women who become pregnant at age 35 and above are considered of advanced maternal age and face risks including miscarriage, genetic abnormalities, fetal growth issues, preterm birth, preeclampsia and stillbirth, experts say.

Giving birth later in life is a growing reality in the U.S. though. Since 2007, the birth rate has risen 19% for women in their early 40s, 11% for women in their late 30s and just 2% for women in their early 30s. Birth rates for women in their 20s declined from 2015 to 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new study that found women's reproductive span now extends to 37 years of reproductive years, on average, looked at 60-year trends in age at natural menopause and reproductive life span and other factors among U.S. women. This increase in reproductive years may be a result of later ages of menopause and earlier ages of first period, on average.

The data showed that average age of menopause for women increased, from 48.4 years to 49.9. And the age that a girl got her first period dropped slightly, on average, from 13.5 years to 12.7.

"These are important numbers," said Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News chief medical correspondent and a board-certified OBGYN. "It's good to get a grip on what's happening over a woman's reproductive life."

The changes in women's reproductive life spans could have potential implications for cases of both heart disease and cancer in women, according to Ashton.

She said the broadening of the life span could mean a slight decrease in cardiovascular disease among women, but could raise the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer, also known as hormonally responsive cancers.

"The more hormonal stimulation [there is] across a woman's lifetime, those cancers can go up," explained Ashton.

The milestone reproductive moments in women's life spans also come with side effects, which range from mild to severe, according to Ashton.

The side effects can range from fatigue and cramping on the mild end to mood changes, severe pelvic pain and heavy bleeding on the more severe end, according to Ashton. Women may also experience irregular menstrual cycles, changes in sleep patterns, and hot flashes in the years leading up to menopause, which is when women stop having menstrual periods.

"We have to remember these milestones in life, while natural, can be problematic," she said. "There's a range of symptoms."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


NY hospital launches COVID-19 saliva testing for those seeking to attend large events, fly internationally

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(NEW YORK) -- Mount Sinai Hospital in New York is launching a COVID-19 saliva-testing program that could prove to be a game-changer for reopening large-scale events.

The program was unveiled Monday and will offer "easy, effective and accurate COVID-19 test for the public" at four testing locations in Manhattan, according to Dr. David Reich, the hospital's president. He told ABC News that the saliva testing is "equal in accuracy to nasal swabs."

The test costs $139.50 and isn't covered by insurance.

"Our discussions with several of the major insurance companies indicate that insurance does not cover testing solely for the purpose of attending a leisure or entertainment event, or for travel," he said.

The test mainly will be used by those paying for the convenience of quickly being able to attend events such as professional sports or the theater, catering events through the state's Excelsior Pass app program, or taking an international flight, Reich added.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the launch of the Excelsior Pass program last month to confirm an individual's recent negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination, data that could be used to help venues reopen in accordance with state Department of Health guidelines. Venues that announced they'll use the app include Madison Square Garden and the Times Union Center.

Results from saliva tests should be available within 48 hours, but about 85% will be available within just 24 hours.

To take the test, patients can't eat or drink anything, brush or floss their teeth or use mouthwash, or smoke or chew gum for one hour prior. The test also can be administered to young children, who may find it more comfortable than a nasal swab.

The tests use the "same, highly accurate polymerase chain reaction technology" as PCR nasal-swab tests that detect the genetic material of the virus.

"I've been dying to go back to theater and just public events," said Reich, adding that these tests also will allow for larger catered events such as big weddings. "We think this is an excellent effort by the state to help reopen New York, and we're very pleased to be part of it."

Anne Wyllie, an associate research scientist in epidemiology at Yale University who helped develop the COVID-19 saliva testing program SalivaDirect, said this method is effective. SalivaDirect received emergency use authorization from the FDA in August and is being used in 36 states at universities and local schools.

She said she thinks testing will continue for the foreseeable future.

"We're already seeing what happens when people start going in thinking that vaccines are going to cure everything, and cases surge again," Wylie said. "We have new variants, I think testing is definitely going to be a thing, at least for schools."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Adult acne explained: Experts weigh in on over-the-counter solutions and best treatments

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(NEW YORK) -- Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, many of us have been looking to learn more about adult acne and the best treatments.

Whether you are dealing with maskne, which is caused by prolonged face mask wear, pandemic-related stress or you simply haven't had the ability to access dermatologists as quickly as you used to, these are all valid reasons for why more adults are experiencing acne breakouts.

Experts agree that there's long been a misconception that only teenagers are affected by acne. However, the skin condition can actually be experienced by people of all ages.

"All acne begins as a clogged pore, which is often filled with dead skin cells, sebum and sometimes bacteria," dermatologist and founder of Tone Dermatology, Dr. Caroline Robinson told GMA.

"Hormonal fluctuations related to menstrual cycles and menopause can lead to increase sebum production and make women, in particular, more susceptible to acne as they get wiser," she said.

Dr. Caroline Chang, dermatologist and founder of Rhode Island Dermatology Institute pointed out to GMA that most adults dealing with acne didn't deal with it during their teen years. She also highlighted the importance of treating it as its own separate diagnosis, because the causes differ.

She shared that three common causes of adult acne include:

Hormonal cause (in women)
Hormonal imbalances throughout different phases of a woman's life can lead to acne breakouts. Women can get breakouts around their period, during pregnancy, or during perimenopause or menopause. It is also possible to get breakouts when starting or stopping birth control pills. This type of acne is usually seen on the chin or around the jawline.

Stress
Stress causes an increase in androgen hormones, which stimulate increased oil production and inflammation in the skin. This type of acne can be seen anywhere on the face.

Rosacea
Rosacea can cause pimple-like bumps called "acne rosacea." This type of acne is usually seen on the cheeks, nose, chin and wherever there is background redness, such as broken capillaries, that indicate a background of rosacea.

When you have adult acne, it's also important to be mindful that though we are going through unprecedented times, there are specific ingredients that can be found in over-the-counter products that don't require a prescription.

"Because adult acne is related more to hormones and inflammation, don't reach for traditional acne products that work to clear out superficial pores," Chang advises. "These can be irritating or drying to the skin and also don't address the root concern."

Top ingredients to look for when treating adult acne, according to experts:

Topical retinols: Topical retinol and prescription retinoids are important active ingredients in the treatment and prevention of acne. They work by removing dead skin cells from the surface of the skin to help unclog pores. T

Salicylic acid: Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid that works by making the skin cells themselves less sticky. This encourages exfoliation and unclogs pores. Salicylic acid works best for comedonal acne, also known as whiteheads and blackheads.

Benzoyl peroxide: Benzoyl peroxide is an anti-microbial ingredient that helps remove excess oil and bacteria from the skin to improve the appearance of acne especially inflammatory acne that creates red or raised bumps.

Niacinamide and saw palmetto: These ingredients are best for combatting androgen signals that cause both hormonal and stress-induced acne.

Sulfur-based: Sulfur-based products work best for calming breakout caused by acne-related rosacea.

Robinson and Chang's top OTC treatment products for adult acne:

Black Opal Blemish Control Bar - It's a great over-the-counter option for acne because of its exfoliating and pore-unclogging ingredients such as salicylic acid. Because the bar also incorporates nourishing ingredients, it leaves the skin feeling clean and never stripped.

PCA Skin BPO 5% Cleanser - It's a 5% benzoyl peroxide cleanser formulated with aloe and other calming ingredients to both treat acne and the irritation commonly associated with it.

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Adapalene Gel 0.1% Topical Retinoid for Acne - It contains adapalene, a prescription-strength retinoid, that is now available over the counter and helps treat new and existing acne.

Younique You-ology brightening mask - It has niacinamide (vitamin B3) and Kakadu plum (vitamin C) both of which have strong anti-inflammatory properties that can help calm and prevent inflammatory acne bumps from surfacing.

Hero Mighty Patch Original - These patches are great because they are gentle but effective in preventing you from picking, popping or squeezing an inflamed bump, giving it time to heal on its own.

Peter Thomas Roth Therapeutic Sulfur Mask - This is a good soothing mask for rosacea flare-ups, and this one has 10% sulfur along with aloe vera to calm the skin.

If you continue to experience adult acne breakouts after using OTC treatments, it's highly advised to make arrangements to visit a dermatologist, as prescription-strength medication may be needed.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Research shows promising development in hunt for HIV vaccine

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(LA JOLLA, Calif.) -- After more than 30 years of attempts, there may be a promising advance in the search for a vaccine for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS if left untreated.

Now, preliminary data from an early stage clinical trial out of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative and The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, suggests that a new HIV vaccine may hold promise.

"These are very early studies. But nonetheless, they are provocative," said Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventative medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, who was not involved in the clinical trial.

Although the vaccine candidate will still need to be tested in larger studies, experts are hopeful this vaccine might succeed where others have failed.

"This is a very innovative approach to developing a vaccine that hasn't been done before," Schaffner said, who described the underlying vaccine technology as "kind of a culmination of 21st century science."

When HIV was first discovered as the cause for AIDS in the early 1980s, researchers thought that a vaccine for this virus could be created rapidly, as had been done for diseases like measles, chickenpox and hepatitis B. In fact, the then-U.S. secretary of health and human services, Margaret Heckler, predicted in 1984 that a vaccine would be available in two years. Researchers soon found that there were more hurdles than they had initially thought.

HIV is a virus that mutates rapidly, creating a moving target for vaccines. HIV also has many different subtypes, so a vaccine offering protection against one subtype of HIV may be ineffective against another.

The new research out of IAVI and Scripps aims to address these difficulties by developing a vaccine that helps the body create "broadly neutralizing antibodies." The researchers hope to stimulate a person's immune system against many HIV variants and mutations.

This research is based on "identification of a subset of HIV-infected individuals ... who, in the course of their infection, do make so-called broadly neutralizing antibodies, which basically means these antibodies are able to potently block infection of diverse HIV variants, and that is the key goal," said Dr. Mark Feinberg, Ph.D., the CEO of IAVI.

Their early stage, phase 1 clinical trial, which is still underway, involved 48 healthy adults who received a total of two doses of either the vaccine or placebo, two months apart. Preliminary data showed 97% of those who received the vaccine had early evidence that their immune system may be able to make these broad antibodies.

"The broadly neutralizing antibody is important, because the virus can mutate so rapidly that they need something that's a shotgun, not a rifle ... to prevent a whole variety of different kinds of HIV configurations," said Schaffner.

The decadeslong search for an HIV vaccine lies in stark contrast to the development of vaccines for COVID-19, "where the science was ready, and we were able to develop vaccines, plural, very, very quickly," Schaffner added.

The researchers at IAVI and Scripps are collaborating with companies, like Moderna, to harness the mRNA technology used in the development of vaccines against COVID-19.

Sara Yumeen, M.D., is a preliminary-year internal medicine resident at Hartford Healthcare St. Vincent's Medical Center in Connecticut and is a contributor to the ABC News Medical Unit.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


57-year-old woman undergoes first-ever trachea transplant

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(NEW YORK) -- When Sonia Sein of New York City suffered damaged vocal cords due to intubation that left her windpipe scarred, she didn't know if she would be able to live a normal life again.

Six years ago, the 57-year-old experienced a life-threatening asthma attack that forced ER doctors in the Bronx to intubate her. And in the process, the tube damaged her vocal cords and her trachea, which is essential for speaking, breathing and normal lung function.

After undergoing several medical procedures, Sein was left with a temporary hole in her windpipe that she needed to cover in order to speak.

"I think I lived more in the hospital than I did at home," Sein told ABC News' Good Morning America. "I wasn't able to do running, going to the beach, laughing, dancing."

Things were tough for Sein, who also lived in constant fear that she would suffocate in her sleep due to her condition. It wasn't until recently that things started looking up.

After years of work, Mount Sinai head and neck surgeon Dr. Eric Genden developed a tracheal transplant procedure. It had never been done successfully because doctors couldn't get blood to flow to the new organ.

"There's thousands of people that die every year because of these defects in their airway," Genden told Good Morning America. "And we have struggled for well over a half a century to try to find a way to remedy it."

According to an article on Mount Sinai's website, the need for tracheal transplantation has become more critical amid the pandemic with the stark rise in the number of patients with severe intubation damage from the prolonged use of ventilators.

"As we learn more and study new protocols, it will only make the time following transplantation even easier," said Genden in the article. "A whole new world is going to open up in organ transplantation."

Sein was chosen to undergo the surgery and be the first-ever trachea transplant recipient. She received the call in January that doctors found a donor.

"I told him, 'I only want five minutes to breathe. Five minutes. That's it,'" Sein recalled telling Genden before the procedure. "If you give me five minutes of me getting that good breath in, you've made my life complete."

Genden said the procedure lasted over 18 hours and 50 people were involved. While he said there were "many opportunities" for things to go wrong during the surgery, Sein's surgery was successful and she was able to breathe for the first time in years.

"It felt like the whole universe just went inside of me and said, 'Here. Accept it,'" she said. "And I was just so happy."

Three months later, Sein is doing great and her body is showing no signs of rejection. Doctors will also soon close up the hole in her neck so she can speak freely.

"She has paved the way for thousands of patients who really had no hope," said Genden. "It was her bravery and her belief in us [that allowed her] to step forward and do this."

Now, the only wish Sein has is to go to the beach.

"All I wanna do is walk on the beach 'cause they told me I could never do it again," she said. "I wanna be able to just walk and say, 'Here. See? I did it.'"

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Alcohol-related liver disease on the rise among young women amid increased pandemic drinking

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(NEW YORK) -- Landree Sarata was just 31 years old when she was diagnosed with end-stage liver failure after drinking nearly daily for the past decade.

"I never expected the diagnosis I got," Sarata, now 37, of Quincy, Massachusetts., told ABC News' Good Morning America. "I thought I just drank as much as everybody else did and had fun like everybody else."

Sarata, who is now on disability and unable to work, said she began drinking daily through her job in pharmaceutical sales and never thought she drank more than anyone else among her social circle.

She said she had "no idea" that someone her age could end up so quickly with alcohol-related liver disease, nor did she know that she may be more susceptible to medical complications from her drinking as a woman.

"It was just a lifestyle that just maintained until it didn't," said Sarata. "I had no idea until I was 31 and I was throwing up blood every day for almost a month straight and had to go to the hospital."

Cases like Sarata's of young women developing alcohol-related liver disease have been on the rise for the past decade, but experts say they are now seeing an even more pronounced spike among women and young people during the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Raymond Chung, director of hepatology and the Liver Center at Massachusetts General Medicine and president of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AALSD), told GMA that his institution and others across the country are reporting 30-50% increases in the number of hospitalizations and deaths caused by alcohol-related liver disease over the past year.

Chung said he and other experts began tracking the spike in cases after becoming concerned with what he calls the "collateral damage" of the pandemic, factors like isolation caused by quarantine, unemployment, financial difficulties, the decreased access to in-person medical and intervention support and the overall added stress of the pandemic.

"We are seeing the downstream consequences of the pandemic," he said about the rise in alcohol-related disease diagnoses. "It's really been a substantial trickle-down effect and one that we all have to be left to contend with."

During the pandemic, men and women both reported increasing the frequency of their binge drinking episodes, defined as five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women within a couple of hours. For women, that count rose by half, according to a study released last year.

Drizly, an alcohol e-commerce platform, told ABC News last September that during the early lockdown days, they saw growth surge of 700-800%. It's leveled off some since then, but they're still seeing 350% growth since 2019.

While some alcohol-related liver diseases like cirrhosis take years to develop, experts say they have seen a rise during the pandemic in cases of alcoholic hepatitis, which is inflammation of the liver caused by drinking alcohol.

Alcoholic hepatitis can develop in the course of weeks and months, versus the years it may take for cirrhosis of the liver to occur, according to Dr. Jessica Mellinger, an assistant professor and hematology specialist at University of Michigan Medicine.

"This is what we're seeing a lot of in our young people and our young women," she said. "They have been, we think because of COVID and isolation and the myriad, diverse stressors that have happened as a consequence of lockdown, turning to alcohol."

"They're drinking very, very heavily and then they're getting all these same symptoms of fluid in their belly, they're jaundiced," Mellinger explained. "They're very, very sick."

Jaundice is the most common symptom of alcoholic hepatitis, but other symptoms can include loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, fever, fatigue and stomach tenderness.

Severe alcoholic hepatitis can develop suddenly and can lead to liver failure and death, according to Mellinger.

"The folks that I'm seeing coming in are drinking really heavily," she said. "They're drinking five, six, seven or eight drinks a day. They might be finishing a pint or going through a couple bottles of wine."

"And usually they were drinking before and then it escalated," continued Mellinger. "So maybe they were having two to three glasses of wine and then added in some vodka and other things and then it escalates to this period of time where they sometimes don't even realize they were drinking that amount."

For women, a moderate alcohol intake per week is defined as seven servings of alcohol or less. For men, it is 14 servings of alcohol or less per week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One serving of alcohol is defined as five ounces for wine and just one-and-a-half ounces for hard alcohol, far less than what is typically served in bars, restaurants and people's homes.

Women are recommended to drink half of what men do because of the different way their bodies process alcohol, which also puts them at greater risk for alcoholic hepatitis and other alcohol-related liver diseases, according to Mellinger.

"Women are more susceptible to alcohol," she said. "How a body reacts to alcohol is about body composition, fat to water weight ratios, where and how many of the enzymes that metabolize alcohol we have in our stomach and in our GI tracts and in our liver, and that's different for women and men."

Women may also fall prey to the false notion that wine does not affect the body the same way as other alcohol, like hard liquor, according to Mellinger.

"That's an important myth to dispel, that somehow wine is not going to cause problems," she said. "The liver doesn't distinguish the alcohol in wine versus the alcohol in Jack Daniels. It's the same."

What women can do

Mellinger and Chung both said that people can drink responsibly, but should be aware that every sip of alcohol they take will have an impact internally on his or her body.

The good news is that in the earlier phases of liver disease, including cirrhosis and alcoholic hepatitis, the damage may be reversible, according to Mellinger.

"In those earlier phases of liver disease, it's pretty much completely reversible if you stop drinking," she said. "Your inflammation will improve and even scar tissue of the liver can heal and resolve itself with alcohol stopping."

Even in advanced stages of alcohol-related liver disease, there can be improvement if alcohol usage is stopped, explained Mellinger.

"I have patients who are placed on the [liver] transplant list because they're so sick, they do that great work of stopping drinking and a year or two later we're taking them off the transplant because they don't need it," she said. "Even at those most advanced stages, it's not hopeless by any stretch."

Early symptoms of liver disease can be vague, which can make it more difficult for people to get help in an earlier stage of disease, according to Mellinger.

She said people with early stages of alcohol-related liver disease may feel discomfort in their upper abdomen and may feel sick to their stomach. If a person is worried about the effect of their alcohol intake, Mellinger recommends asking their doctor to check their liver enzymes.

"If you get a study like that and your liver enzymes are elevated, that might be a sign that you want to cut back," she said. "And sometimes the damage is happening and we won't see it on imaging or on labs."

In order to help prevent a diagnosis of alcohol-related liver disease at all, Mellinger and Chung said people should take an honest look at their drinking habits, taking in factors including how often they are drinking and how much they are drinking in a specific amount of time.

They should also familiarize themselves with the recommended serving sizes of alcohol, so pouring five ounces of wine into a wine glass, for example, to see how much is considered one drink.

"This is a potentially toxic drug and it should be viewed as that," Chung said of alcohol. "We understand that it does many things to make people feel good but it has to be understood as the toxin that it is, and that it doesn't take a great deal to cause significant organ damage."

"It's very important for people to square up with and be honest with themselves on the amount of alcohol they're consuming and whether they're getting close to that boundary or threshold," he said.

If you or someone close to you needs help for a substance use disorder, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit FindTreatment.gov, SAMHSA's Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Illinois bar linked to 46 COVID-19 cases, school closure: CDC

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(CHICAGO) — An indoor opening event at a bar in rural Illinois in February led to 46 COVID-19 infections, one school closure and a hospitalization of a resident of a long-term care facility, according to a report issued Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The agency took a look at the incident at the unidentified business, which had a max capacity of 100 people. Illinois began reopening indoor bars and restaurants to customers at the end of January, with strict capacity limits and other health protocols.

Although the CDC report said the agency doesn't have a count on how many people attended the bar's reopening, which took place around Feb. 3, four people had COVID-19-like symptoms on the same day they attended.

The bar had no outside airflow, and consistent mask use and social distancing weren't maintained, according to the report.

Two weeks after the reopening, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported a connected outbreak that had serious consequences for others.

The report said 26 patrons and three staff members who attended the opening event contracted COVID-19. There were 17 secondary cases linked to the bar, including a dozen cases in eight households with children, according to the CDC.

None of those cases resulted in hospitalizations, according to the report.

Two secondary cases were of individuals on a school sports team, and three cases were in a long-term care facility (LTCF), according to the report.

"Transmission associated with the opening event resulted in one school closure affecting 650 children (9,100 lost person-days of school) and hospitalization of one LTCF resident with COVID-19," the report said.

CDC researchers warned that the "number of cases described in this report is likely lower than the actual number of bar attendee and secondary cases associated with the event."

The agency emphasized that businesses need to adhere to mask mandates, phased-in expansions on capacity and proper ventilation as they reopen in the coming months.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


COVID-19 vaccine side effects reported by women more than men: Here's why

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(NEW YORK) -- If you are a woman who felt more severe side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine than your brother, father, male coworker or partner, you are not alone and not imagining things.

The majority of side effects from the vaccine reported so far have been among women. This might be because women are more likely to willing than men to acknowledge symptoms like headache and fatigue, but there also may be a biological reason why women experience more severe side effects than men, experts say.

"We know that with vaccinations and infections, women tend to have a stronger immune response than men," Dr. Simone Wildes, a Boston-based infectious disease specialist, told ABC News' Good Morning America. "That’s really driven by biological differences in males and females and the sex hormones."

Stephanie Durocher, a middle school teacher in Raleigh, North Carolina, felt the difference firsthand when she received the Moderna vaccine last month.

After her first shot, Dorucher said she experienced a rash at the injection site, which she said also felt hot and itchy.

After her second shot last week, Dorucher was sidelined with side effects including body aches, fever, chills and nausea, which she described as "five days of horrible."

Those types of side effects are playing out for women across the country -- in the first 13.7 million COVID-19 vaccine doses given to Americans earlier this year, 79% of the reports of side effects were reported by women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The most frequently reported symptoms were headache, dizziness and fatigue, according to the CDC.

A separate study, published in February in JAMA, also found that the majority of anaphylactic reactions to COVID-19 vaccines have occurred in women.

Thankfully, vaccine side effects are temporary, usually going away within a day or two after the shot. And allergic reactions are exceedingly rare, happening in fewer than five people out of every one million shots given.

Wildes explained that women and men experience different side effects because the COVID-19 vaccine prompts the body to make foreign proteins, and women's bodies react differently than men's.

"When we get the COVID vaccine, we are introducing proteins into our body that are foreign and we’re teaching the cells to make the antibodies and the T-cells to help to fight the infection in case we’re exposed to it," she said. "What happens in the female body is those cells create more protein than the male cells would."

"When females get the vaccine, we’re going to complain of more side effects because our immune system is more revved up," Wildes explained. "We are able to produce more of the antibodies, the T-cells against this foreign material, the COVID-19 vaccine."

The different immune responses between men and women also could help explain why men have experienced a higher fatality rate of COVID-19 throughout the pandemic, according to Wildes.

Experts like Wildes say women's tendency to report medical symptoms more could also be a factor in the higher percentage of women reporting COVID vaccine side effects.

"Women in general just report more, so there is that difference," said Wildes. "I can’t tell you how many men I will see in the hospital who say, ‘My wife forced me to go to the hospital,' while some men will say, 'It's not a big deal.'"

The different reactions between men and women to the COVID-19 vaccine track with what experts have also seen with other vaccines, like the flu shot, according to Wildes.

She stressed that reports of side effects should not deter any women from getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

"We are seeing more side effects with women and that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get it, it just means that's what we’re seeing," said Wildes. "Don’t let that be a gauge to say, 'Well maybe I shouldn’t get it.'"

"Being informed about what to expect really makes a difference," she added.

People who get a COVID-19 vaccine may feel pain, redness and swelling in the location of the shot, according to the CDC, adding that throughout the body people may feel fatigue, muscle pain, chills, fever, headaches and nausea.

According to the CDC, people should avoid taking painkillers like ibuprofen before getting a covid-19 vaccine shot because it's not clear if these medications will interfere with the vaccine's effectiveness. However, the CDC says it should be safe to take a painkiller after getting the shot, to treat any pain or discomfort, after discussing it with your doctor.

Most people can expect the side effects to go away "within a few days." People should contact their health care provider if side effects are worrisome to them and/or do not go away after a few days, according to the CDC.

Wildes explained that any side effects are normal signs that the vaccine is working in your body. She also noted that the response has "no correlation to how the vaccine is working in your body."

"Each person’s response is different," said Wildes. "We’re telling you what to expect [with side effects] so you’re not alarmed and can be prepared for what comes."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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