Health

Kentucky BioProcessing

A spokesman says an Owensboro company is hiring more people and is working around the clock on an experimental medicine that was recently used on  American aid workers who contracted Ebola.

Reynolds American Inc. acquired Kentucky BioProcessing in January. Reynolds spokesman David Howard said the company has put its full focus on the compound ZMapp. Kentucky BioProcessing was contracted by San Diego based drug maker Mapp Biopharmaceutical to produce ZMapp. It makes the compound using tobacco plants.

Brace yourselves: Flu season is coming. And along with the coughing, fevers and aches, you can expect a lot of unreliable or downright wrong information about the flu vaccine.

Many people underestimate the health risks from flu. Thousands of Americans die from flu-related complications in a typical year, and last season's H1N1 strain hit young adults particularly hard.

The Kentucky Department for Public Health  is reporting the first positive lab-confirmed influenza case this week, indicating the presence of flu circulating in Kentucky.   The case was from Jefferson County.

DPH officials are reporting the results to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of statewide flu surveillance efforts.  Kentucky’s flu activity will be classified as “sporadic,” the lowest level indicating flu activity.  

The flu season in Kentucky typically begins in October or November.  

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A new program is seeking to collect, refurbish, and distribute used hearing aids to Kentuckians who need assistance.

The Statewide Hearing Aid Assistance and Reuse Program—or SHARP—accepts hearing aids of any age of condition. The donations will be evaluated and refurbished to like-new condition, or will be used for parts.

Jimmy Brown, director of the Kentucky Assistive Technology Service, the group SHARP, says providing hearing aids to someone who can’t afford them will transform their lives.

“Communication is the key. Individuals with a hearing impairment, whether they’re completely deaf or hard of hearing, that communication is key, and being able to provide that component to that individual is going to open many doors, whether it’s for education, or for work, or for their everyday community living-type access.”

Medicare and most health insurance plans don’t cover the cost of hearing aids, and Brown says the average cost of a pair of hearing aids is prohibitively high for many Kentuckians who need the help.

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As researchers learn more about the human brain and body, we’re starting to understand more about the importance of sleep. For many in the health field, getting enough sleep ranks alongside diet and exercise in terms of importance.

For Dr. Phillip Bale, increasing the understanding of the importance of sleep is crucial to improving health, as well as the academic performance of children. Bale is a Family Physician from Glasgow where he serves as the Medical Director and Founder of the Bale Center for Prevention of Heart Attack, Stroke & Diabetes. He spoke to WKU Public Radio about his concerns over the quantity and quality of sleep the average American is getting—especially young Americans.

One of the state’s foremost HIV/AIDS public health officials has told a panel of state lawmakers Wednesday that the state’s health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act, Kynect, is helping patients who have the virus.

Despite gains in treating the virus, it still disproportionately affects African-Americans and Hispanics.

According to data from the Kentucky Department for Public Health, African-Americans make up 38 percent of newly diagnosed HIV cases despite representing only eight percent of the state population.

Kraig Humbaugh, senior deputy commissioner for the department, told members of the Joint Committee on Health and Welfare that those figures mirror a national trend. His only explanation for the difference lies in the risk factors listed by the data.

Kentucky’s leading cancer researchers and parents of children with  the disease say that increased funding in pediatric cancer research would better help them understand and treat it. 

Jamie Bloyd is a mother of a child diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma. She told lawmakers on the Joint Committee for Health and Welfare Wednesday that the state should commit funds to studying the disease in children like her son Paxton.

“Ten million dollars in our budget goes to dental care for inmates, but zero dollars go to pediatric cancer research in Kentucky. And I just think that that’s sickening. I think that our kids deserve better than our inmates do.”

Bloyd says $10 million in state funding “would be a good starting place.”

According to the University of Kentucky’s Pediatric Research Institute, about 150 Kentucky children are diagnosed with cancer each year.

U of L Gearing Up In Fight Against ALS

Sep 17, 2014

A fund has been started in Louisville to support research into amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease.

The fund will help back research at the University of Louisville Physicians ALS Clinic. The clinic was named a Recognized Treatment Clinic by the ALS Association on Tuesday, becoming one of 50 in the U.S. to earn the designation.

The fund will also help support the clinic as it pursues its goal of becoming a Certified Center for Excellence.

Four Kentucky children remain hospitalized after suffering an apparent E. coli infection. The cluster of cases is being investigated by the Lincoln Trail District Health Department based in Elizabethtown. 

The first illness was reported in mid-August. Health Department Public Information Officer Wendy Keown says investigators are trying to determine if there is a common cause. 

"We thoroughly investigate activities such as recent travel, exposure to animals, food histories. You know, have they been swimming anywhere? And try to find any commonality between those to determine a source.  As of right now, there has not been a confirmed source of infection identified," said Keown.

The five children sickened with hemolytic uremic syndrome range in age from 18 months to six years. 

Keown says they are suffering kidney related problems. She says three of the children are from Hardin County and one each from Oldham and Boone Counties. 

The most severe form of black lung disease is at levels not seen since the early 1970s, according to new data from the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety.

NIOSH has been testing underground coal miners in Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia for the disease for 40 years.

In the data letter published today in a scientific journal, researchers say there has been a startling resurgence of complicated black lung.

This is despite federal laws that were supposed to control dust in coal mines and eradicate the disease. 

Evan Smith is an attorney with the Appalachian Citizens Law Center in Whitesburg.

With a new school year underway, students and their parents are being warned about the effects of too much caffeine in the body.  Students might turn to energy drinks, caffeine tablets, or caffeine powder while playing sports or studying for tests. 

Poison control centers around the country are seeing an increased number of calls related to caffeine poisoning. 

"The most common symptoms we see early on in caffeine poisoning are nausea and vomiting, but if enough caffeine is consumed, we can see a rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, and in worst case scenarios, seizures, heart arrhythmias, and death," says Kentucky Regional Poison Control Center Director Ashley Webb.

The highly-concentrated caffeine powder, sold primarily online, is perhaps the most dangerous.  According to the FDA, just one teaspoon of the powder is equal to drinking about 25 cups of coffee. 

Although death from caffeine poisoning is rare, it has occurred.  Earlier this year, a high school student in Ohio died after consuming the powder.

Health Costs Inch Up As Obamacare Kicks In

Sep 12, 2014

Doctors and hospitals treated more patients and collected more payments in the spring as millions gained insurance coverage under the health law, new figures from the government show.

But analysts called the second-quarter increases modest and said there is little evidence to suggest that wider coverage and a recovering economy are pushing health spending growth to the painful levels of a decade ago.

WKU Student Develops App Used to Track Ebola Outbreak

Sep 12, 2014
Bryan Lemon, WKU

A WKU student has come up with a way to track the Ebola virus outbreak.

Armin Smailhodzic developed a smartphone app that uses Twitter data to track the virus. Western says the app could predict the spread of the virus.

Smailhodzic began working on the app as part of his Master's thesis in the Homeland Security program at WKU. Initially, he wanted to track Twitter data to gather information about political unrest in the Middle East. Then, WKU chemistry professor Cathleen Webb suggested using the idea to track Ebola.

Smailhodzic, a Bosnian native, says they were surprised to find so much information being shared on Twitter.

The Ebola Project app is available in the app store for Ios and the Google store for android devices.

Tonya Ratliff’s 15-year-old son Tyler has been living with diabetes for 10 years.  Two years ago, doctors told the Owensboro family they’d have to start replacing the insert in Tyler’s diabetes pump more frequently.

“It already was a lot, and that would double it," she said. "So I was like ‘I don’t think I can do that,'."

With three sons, it would be an extra financial burden the Ratliff family. Their doctor told them about a foundation that helps pay for medical expenses not covered by a healthcare plan.  

Since 2007, the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation has given 7,500 grants across the country. In the last three years, 90 of them have been in Kentucky, providing nearly $300,000 for families with children 16 and under. The organization is trying to increase the number of Kentucky families who receive assistance.

“It was a life-changing experience for us, because we literally lived paycheck to paycheck and this was a great burden off of us,” said Ratliff.

The program can cover up to $5,000 dollars in expenses, and each child can receive a maximum of $10,000 over a lifetime.

An experimental Ebola vaccine is now being tested in people, according to scientists who say the drug has shown promising results when it was tested on monkeys. The small clinical trial is using healthy human volunteers in the U.S.

The Ebola vaccine is the subject of a study published Sunday in the journal Nature Medicine. Researchers say the vaccine treatment includes a booster shot to help the immune system fight off the virus for months after it's first administered.

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