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Deadly shootings are rising in US after steady declines

This a Kaiser Health News story.

After steadily declining for more than two decades, deadly shoot..

This a Kaiser Health News story.

After steadily declining for more than two decades, deadly shootings are rising across the country, according to a new government report.

The researchers also said that the number of suicides involving a firearm grew 21 percent between 2006 and 2016.

The report, published Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, looked at gun deaths around the country and in 50 major metropolitan areas. The researchers found a rise in gun homicides in 2015 and 2016, reversing a downward trend and bringing them to a level comparable to a decade ago.

It also reported that deadly shootings were up across all age groups nationwide.

“It is too soon to know whether recent increases in firearm homicide rates represent a short-term fluctuation or the beginning of a longer-term trend,” the report said.

The findings were released shortly after a gunman in Thousand Oaks, Calif., killed 12 people, including a county sheriffs deputy, at a bar popular with college students, and less than two weeks after a gunman walked into a Pittsburgh synagogue and killed 11 people.

Despite the high publicity garnered by mass shootings in recent years, the Pew Research Center previously reported that the rate of firearm homicides began declining in the 1990s and then remained fairly flat from 2001 to 2014.

The federal researchers analyzed mortality and population data from the nations 50 most populous metropolitan areas to calculate both firearm homicides and suicides during two time periods, 2015-2016 and 2012-2013. The group also highlighted the rate of these incidents among 10- to 19-year-olds.

According to the report, more than 27,000 people were killed in gun homicides in 2015-2016, for a death rate of 4.4 per 100,000 people. The rate is higher for the 50 cities, where more than 17,000 people were killed, or 4.9 per 100,000 people.

By comparison, nearly 23,000 people died across the country and more than 14,000 died in those cities from firearm homicide in 2012-2013.

Andrew Papachristos, a professor of sociology at Northwestern University who was not involved in the study, said changes in the level of gun violence can come from a variety of factors, including different police protocols, gang violence and general mistrust.

Efforts by the federal government to research gun violence have been governed by the Dickey Amendment, a legislative rider for funding that groups seeking tighter control of guns felt limited the CDCs efforts to examine the issue. But federal health officials, including Alex Azar, the secretary of Health and Human Services, say it does not impede federal research.

Nearly 45,000 people killed themselves with a gun in 2015-2016, more than 3,000 more than in 2012-2013, according to the report. The increase extended to city dwellers, too, although the rate of deaths among city dwellers was significantly lower than for the country as a whole.

Slightly more than 2,100 young people, including 851 in the major cities, died from firearm suicide in 2015-2016, according to the report.

The researchers noted that the sharp decade-long rise in gun suicides coincided partly with the Great Recession that began in 2007. But the increases have continued despite the economic recovery, they said.

The ease of access to a gun has been shown to be a key link to these acts. The time between deciding to commit suicide and attempting it can be as brief as 10 minutes, the report said, so finding a gun quickly can make the attempt much easier. Often, people do not try an alternative method when the highly lethal route is unavailable.

The report stressed proper storage of firearms to reduce the risk of suicide.

Jonathan Metzl, director of the Center for Medicine, Health, and Society at Vanderbilt University, who was not involved in the study, said mental health professionals struggle with trying to predict who is at risk.

“People act impulsively in moments of despair,” Metzl said. “And it may or may not be linked to psychiatric illness.”

Males also run a higher risk of dying by firearm suicide. According to the report, men and boys made up 85 percent of the deaths both in the 50 major cities and nationally.

Approximately the same share of men died by firearm homicide. However, it is important to note these issues affect different populations, Papachristos said. Minorities represent a disproportionate share of homicides, while suicide claims a disproportionate number of white men.

Kaiser Health News is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. It is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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Officials investigating 252 possible cases of polio-like illness AFM

Officials are now investigating 252 cases of possible acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), including 90 con..

Officials are now investigating 252 cases of possible acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), including 90 confirmed cases in 27 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of cases under investigation by the CDC is up 33 from last week, and the number of confirmed cases rose by 10, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of CDCs National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters Tuesday.

Acute flaccid myelitis is a condition that has polio-like symptoms such as partial paralysis. The virus mostly affects children and young adults. The CDC said they do not know why the condition is impacting these individuals, but many believe it is caused by viruses. The CDC emphasized it remains a rare condition and said there have been no reported deaths from AFM so far in 2018.

The typical symptoms of AFM are similar to those of a severe respiratory illness, along with a fever, but then progress into neurological symptoms. Some patients with AFM feel weakness in their arms or legs, a loss of muscle tone or slower reflexes.

Some patients may also exhibit facial droop or weakness, difficulty moving their eyes and drooping eyelids or difficulty with swallowing or slurred speech. The most severe symptom is respiratory failure.

Messonnier said the CDC doesn't yet have enough information to definitively say what causes AFM and are casting a wide net for information. Part of that is studying the long-term health of AFM patients. Scientists are also looking for a pathogen in AFM patients' spinal fluid, but haven't yet found a pathogen that's a clear cause, she said.

The CDC said it sees an uptick in AFM cases every two years, and so far, the curve of the cases being investigated this year looks very similar to that of 2014 and 2016.

Officials don't expect many more cases in 2018 compared to 2016 and 2014, Messonnier said.

The best advice available is to wash your hands regularly, which lowers the chances of getting sick or spreading germs from many of the viruses linked to AFM, and protect against mosquito bites by using repellent, in addition to staying indoors at dusk and dawn.

The CDC said the vaccines your pediatrician suggests are very effective and children should continue to receive them on schedule even though there is no vaccine for AFM. (more…)

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‘Make-a-Wish’ wishes decrease trips to hospital for sick children: Study

A recent study from the Nationwide Childrens Hospital in Columbus, Ohio shows that participation in ..

A recent study from the Nationwide Childrens Hospital in Columbus, Ohio shows that participation in the Make-A-Wish program may give children better quality of life and reduce hospital visits and healthcare costs.

Patients who received a wish were 2.5 times more likely to have fewer unplanned hospital admissions and 1.9 times more likely to have fewer unplanned emergency department visits compared to patients of similar age, gender, disease category, and disease complexity who would also quality for a wish but did not receive one.

What is the Make-A-Wish Foundation?

The Make-A-Wish Foundation is a non-profit organization whose goal is to provide children aged three to 17-years-old who have progressive, life-limiting, or life-threatening medical conditions, with experiences known as “wishes.” These wishes include “I wish to…” “go,” “be (someone for a day),” “meet,” and “have” (i.e. receive gifts.) The foundation is funded by contributions from individual donors, corporations, and other organizations.

What are the goals and mission of the Make-A-Wish Foundation?

The Make-A-Wish Foundation “serves a unique, and vital, role in helping strengthen and empower children battling illnesses.” And, “wishes make life better for kids with critical illnesses.”

How many “wishes” does the foundation grant?

The Make-A-Wish Foundation was founded in November 1980 and the first wish was granted in the spring of 1981 to Frank “Bopsy” Salazar, a 7-year-old who had leukemia. Bopsy had three wishes: to be a fireman, go to Disneyland, and ride in a hot air balloon — all of which were granted to him. Since then, more than 285,000 children in the United States and its territories have benefited from experiencing their wishes. The foundation granted 15,300 wishes last year alone; which means on average, a wish is granted every 34 minutes.

What are the potential benefits of receiving a “wish?"

There is a long-held belief that receiving a wish improves a childs quality of life and potentially improves their familys quality of life, enhances family bonding, reduces stress, increases hope and serves as a distraction from illness. (more…)

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To curb STD rise, doctors treat patients’ partners without an office visit

This is a Kaiser Health News story.

If patients return to Dr. Crystal Bowe soon after taking medi..

This is a Kaiser Health News story.

If patients return to Dr. Crystal Bowe soon after taking medication for a sexually transmitted infection, she usually knows the reason: Their partners have re-infected them.

“While you tell people not to have sex until both folks are treated, they just dont wait,” she said. “So they are passing the infection back and forth.”

Thats when Bowe, who practices on both sides of the North and South Carolina border, does something doctors are often reluctant to do: She prescribes the partners antibiotics without meeting them.

Federal health officials have recommended this practice, known as expedited partner therapy, for chlamydia and gonorrhea since 2006. It allows doctors to prescribe medication to their patients partners without examining them. The idea is to prevent the kind of reinfections described by Bowe — and stop the transmission of STDs to others.

However, many physicians arent taking the federal governments advice because of entrenched ethical and legal concerns.

“Health care providers have a long tradition of being hesitant to prescribe to people they havent seen,” said Edward Hook, professor at the University of Alabamas medical school in Birmingham. “There is a certain skepticism.”

A nationwide surge of sexually transmitted diseases in recent years, however, has created a sense of urgency for doctors to embrace the practice. STD rates have hit an all-time high, according to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention. In 2017, the rate of reported gonorrhea cases increased nearly 19 percent from a year earlier to 555,608. The rate of chlamydia cases rose almost 7 percent to 1.7 million.

“STDs are everywhere,” said Dr. Cornelius Jamison, a lecturer at the University of Michigan Medical School. “We have to figure out how to … prevent the spread of these infections. And its necessary to be able to treat multiple people at once.”

A majority of states allow expedited partner therapy. Two states — South Carolina and Kentucky — prohibit it, and six others plus Puerto Rico lack clear guidance for physicians. (more…)

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