Health

Jewish Hospital/KentuckyOne Health

A Bowling Green man who had a hand transplant last week has had the hand removed because it was failing.

Dr. Joseph Kutz  said in a statement Monday that the 67-year-old man's hand was failing on Sunday and surgeons decided to remove it after consulting with the family.

It's the second time in the Louisville hand-transplant program's 15-year history that a new hand has had to be removed.

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A new report shows Kentucky continues to make strides in reducing the number of babies born premature. 

Just over 12 percent of babies in the state last year were born before 37 weeks of pregnancy, which was an improvement for the 7th year in a row.  The commonwealth received a 'C' on the latest March of Dime Report Card.

"Not many years ago, we had an 'F,' so we have improved significantly, said Katrina Smith with the Kentucky March of Dimes Chapter.

Smith credits the improvement to better education by health departments, hospitals, and other health care providers.  Still, reducing premature births is still a challenge in Kentucky.  Smith told WKU Public Radio too many women smoke while pregnant.

"The CDC has identified smoking in pregnancy as one of the main things to avoid to prevent a preterm birth," explained Smith.  "We do have significantly higher rates of pregnant women who smoke in Kentucky, and that's one of the things we're working on."

Babies who survive an early birth can face a lifetime of health challenges.  Even babies born just a few weeks early have higher rates of hospitalization and illness than full-term infants.

Smoking is already prohibited on most state-owned property in Kentucky, but starting this week, the policy becomes stricter.  Under an executive order by Governor Steve Beshear, all types of tobacco products will be banned. 

The Kentucky chapter of the American  Lung Association believes the policy creates momentum for a comprehensive statewide smoking ban when lawmakers return to Frankfort in January.

"There's public support, a number of health care organizations and businesses support it, and we feel like there is the legislative votes to make it happen," said Director of Advocacy Heather Wehrheim.

Kentucky has one of the highest smoking rates in the country.  Anti-smoking advocates have unsuccessfully pushed a statewide ban on smoking in public places for several years and are hopeful 2015 will be the year the legislation clears the General Assembly.

Tobacco restrictions on state property take effect November 20.

Jack Blankenship was pinned facedown in the dirt, his neck, shoulder and back throbbing with pain.

He was alone on an errand, in a dark tunnel a mile underground at the Aracoma Alma coal mine in Logan County, W.Va., when a 300-pound slab of rock peeled away from the roof and slammed him to the ground. As his legs grew numb, he managed to free an arm and reach his radio. For two hours, he pressed the panic button that was supposed to bring help quickly.

A first-of-its-kind collaboration in Kentucky is aimed at detecting lung cancer earlier and increasing survivorship rates.

The $7 million effort announced Wednesday in Frankfort is being funded through a grant made by the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation.

The effort is called the Kentucky LEADS Collaborative, and is a joint effort between the Universities of Louisville and Kentucky, and the Lung Cancer Alliance. Lung cancer takes an especially heavy toll in the commonwealth, as the state leads the nation in the number of lung cancer cases.

The collaboration will bring together health experts tasked with creating new ways to detect lung cancer at earlier stages in order to increase survivorship. Another goal is to improve the quality of life of lung cancer patients and their caregivers.

Kentucky State Government

Kentuckians seeking health insurance only have a few more days before they can apply for coverage on the state's online health exchange.

The state launched its Kynect website last October, signing up more than 521,000 uninsured on private plans or Medicaid.  The second open enrollment period begins this Saturday on the 15th.

Governor Steve Beshear told WKU Public Radio that while the rollout of Kentucky’s health exchange was a model for the rest of the nation, a few changes are being made to better serve the public.

"We're working on an app you can access on your cell phone and we're hopefully going to have more kynectors on the ground," said Beshear.  "We're looking at various ways to make it as easy as possible for people to understand what this is and to get health care."

The state is also working with more insurance agents and increasing its call center staff to reduce wait times. 

Open enrollment lasts until February 15, but sign-ups should be made by December 15 to ensure coverage by January 1.

Once again the Supreme Court will decide whether the Affordable Care Act lives or dies.

Defying expectations, the court announced Friday it has agreed to hear a case that challenges the heart of the law: subsidies that help people pay their insurance premiums. In about three dozen states, the federal government runs the online marketplaces (exchanges) where individuals can find health plans.

Health Official Wants Fort Campbell to Work With the State

Oct 30, 2014
Fort Campbell

Tennessee's top health department official is recommending that Fort Campbell use the state lab facility for testing for specific diseases, including Ebola.

Dr. John Dreyzehner, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health, told a round table discussion at the military post that the state lab is close to Fort Campbell and could provide assistance.

Some Fort Campbell troops recently deployed, as the 101st Airborne (Air Assault) assumed a role as the Headquarters Unit for the military mission in Liberia. The troops joined soldiers from all five services who are providing engineering, health care training and logistical support to USAID, the armed forces of Liberia and the government of Liberia.

The round table was held between military and civilian health administrators at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital at Fort Campbell.

The hunt to find genes that cause autism has been a long slog, one hampered by a lack of technology and families willing to be tested.

But the effort is starting to pay off. On Tuesday, researchers at more than 50 laboratories said they had identified more than 100 genes that are mutated in children with autism, dozens more than were known before.

Health officials are saying it. Scientists are saying it. Heck, even many journalists are saying it: "The risk of Ebola infection remains vanishingly small in this country," The New York Times wrote Wednesday.

But what does that mean? Are you more likely to be struck by lightning or catch Ebola?

Kentuckians will soon be able to access their personal medical records online. The patient portal called myhealthnow will eliminate the need for obtaining paper records from doctors’ offices. 

"We're working with health care providers to develop the patient portal so that patients don't have to request those paper records anymore and don't have to actually go into the office," says Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services spokeswoman Beth Fisher.  "They can create an account, store, and access all of their records online."

The goal is to help medical facilities improve record keeping and patient care, and help patients become more engaged in their health care.  The portal should be running statewide by the end of the year. 

Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center in Leitchfield and Logan Family Practice in Russellville are among several healthcare facilities statewide participating in the pilot phase.

American Red Cross

The American Red Cross is looking to restructure its presence nationwide by merging some of its smaller chapters, which could mean the closure of some offices in Kentucky.  

A recent memo from Red Cross leadership indicates that the non-profit humanitarian organization providing emergency assistance, disaster relief and health education will be undergoing a transformation to create a stronger and more cost-efficient Red Cross by 2017. The plan includes consolidating smaller chapters into larger ones to cover a greater geographic area.

But Regional Communications Director Amber Youngblood says decisions on specific closures within Kentucky haven't been finalized.

"For any and all chapters, many discussions have been had with local community partners, and board members and division leadership to best see what we can allocate and what can do best moving forward," Youngblood said. "Right now the plans are underway but there has been no final organizational decision that has been reached at this time for the chapters across the state in Kentucky."

Kentucky has 13 Red Cross chapters, including locations in Bardstown, Bowling Green, Fort Campbell, Glasgow, and Madisonville.

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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