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Woman breaks for mental health days; boss' reply goes viral

A Michigan woman who suffers from depression emailed her team at work informing them that she would be taking days off to focus on her mental health and well-being, and her boss’ response has gained much attention online. 

>> Read more trending news 

Madalyn Parker, a web developer at Olark Live Chat, took to Twitter to post a screenshot of her email communication with her co-workers and a supervisor.

In an email titled “Where’s Madalyn?” Parker told her team she’d be taking off two days to renew her mental health. 

“Hopefully, I’ll be back next week refreshed and back to 100%,” she wrote. 

Parker was surprised and delighted by one of the responses she received. She asked the sender if she could post a screenshot of the reply, and he told her yes.

“Hey Madalyn, I just wanted to personally thank you for sending emails like this. Every time you do, I use it as a reminder of the importance of using sick days for mental health,” Ben Cogleton, the CEO of Olark wrote. “I can’t believe this is not a standard practice at all organizations.”

He continued: “You are an example to us all and help cut through the stigma so we can all bring our whole selves to work.”  

Parker’s post of the conversation garnered more than 34,000 likes on Twitter and sparked conversations about companies’ obligation to provide mental health days.

“It’s 2017. I cannot believe that it is still controversial to speak about mental health in the workplace when 1 in 6 Americans are medicated for mental health,” Cogleton wrote in a blog post. “We are in a knowledge economy. Our jobs require us to execute at peak mental performance. When an athlete is injured they sit on the bench and recover. Let’s get rid of the idea that somehow the brain is different.”

Heartburn drugs linked to higher risk of early death, study says

People taking common heartburn and indigestion medicines may face a heightened risk of premature death, according to new observational research published Monday in the British Medical Journal Open.

A team of scientists from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, found that the use of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) — drugs commonly taken to treat both heartburn and stomach acid — led to 25 percent higher risk of early death by any cause when compared to those using H2 blockers, common acid reducers.

>> RELATED: Differences between PPIs and H2 blockers for heartburn 

To come up with the findings, the team examined medical records of 3.5 million middle-aged Americans in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs system and compared those taking PPIs and those taking H2 blockers to treat heartburn.

Researchers did not examine over-the-counter PPIs or particular brands of prescription-strength drugs. Instead, the team focused on prescription PPIs typically used at higher doses and for longer durations, CNN reported.

According to senior author Ziyad Al-Aly, for every 500 patients taking PPIs for one year, there would be one additional death that wouldn’t have occurred if the patient wasn’t using PPIs.

And with millions of people using PPIs on a daily basis to treat heartburn and stomach acid, thousands of additional deaths could result.

>> RELATED: Popular heartburn medications may increase dementia risk, study says

Al-Aly and his team also found that the longer a patient used PPIs, the higher their risk of premature death.

Though the precise biological reason for a possible link between PPIs and risk of premature death is unclear, the gene-changing effect of the drugs may contribute to the potential problem. 

Because the research is based on observational study, the team noted the findings are “far from conclusive,” meaning they do not prove cause and effect.

>> Read more trending news

But the findings “may be used to encourage and promote pharmacovigilance [monitoring the side-effects of licensed drugs],” the authors wrote, urging patients to be judicious in their use of PPIs and limit the duration of use unless there is a clear medical benefit that outweighs any potential risk.

It’s not the first time PPIs have been linked to some dangerous health trends. Previous research has also shown links between the drugs and dementia, cardiovascular disease, hip fractures and more.

Read the full study.

Itchy? Here are 10 ways to soothe poison oak, sumac, ivy

While it’s the right time of year to be playing and working outside, it’s also the time of year when you might run into some nasty plants, such as poison ivy, oak and sumac.

>> Read more trending news

Here are 10 tips on dealing with the itchy results:

1. Immediately wash

All three plants have a chemical in their sap called urushiol. That’s what causes the rash on your skin.

If you think you may have run into any of these plants, quickly wash off the affected area with water and soap before it seeps into your skin.

2. Coffee

If it’s too late and the itchy, rashy places have already started popping up on your skin, there are numerous treatments you can try to help relieve that itch.

One is cold coffee – pour that over the rash to help sooth your skin.

RELATED: Don’t throw away your coffee grounds — you can use them in so many ways

3. Baking soda

Making a paste out of baking soda and water and applying it to the affected area can help. Or, you can take a lukewarm bath and add a cup of baking soda to the bath water.

4. Turmeric

Another paste application involves the spice turmeric. Make a paste out of it and lemon juice or rubbing alcohol. Apply to the affected area for 15 minutes and wipe off. Beware: It will turn your skin yellow.

RELATED: This homemade turmeric face mask can reduce acne scars and zap facial hair

5. Cucumber

While cucumber slices are usually associated with salons, they can also help relieve these itches.

You can apply the slices on directly, or mash them into a paste and apply the cooling effect that way.

6. Oatmeal

It’s not just for breakfast -- oatmeal can also help relieve these itches. Blend two cups uncooked oatmeal into a powder. Then add to a warm bath and soak for 20 minutes.

7. Epsom salts

Another bath-administered relief are Epsom salts. Adding two cups of Epsom salt to a warm bath and then soaking for 20 minutes is both relaxing and itch-relieving.

8. Aloe vera

Aloe vera has many benefits, including improving the condition of your hair, reducing dandruff, and repairing skin cells.

To reduce itchiness, rub the flesh of the plant directly onto the affected area.

9. Watermelon

Watermelons are great sources of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium and magnesium. The rind, which is often thrown away, is also edible and has healthy properties.

If you don’t eat it, putting the rind on your itchy spots can help cool them down.

RELATED: Add this ingredient to your summer watermelon to make it even more irresistible

10. Vodka

If you come in contact with poison ivy, oak or sumac, pouring vodka over the area can help wash away the urushiol oil that causes the itch. It’s been said that the higher the proof of the alcohol, the better.

51 treated for heroin overdoses in 48 hours at 2 Pennsylvania hospitals

In just 48 hours, more than 50 patients were treated at two neighboring Pennsylvania hospitals for heroin overdoses.

According to PennLive, Williamsport Regional Medical Center and Soldiers and Sailors Hospital in Wellsboro saw 51 patients in two days who had overdosed on heroin. One person died.

>> Read more trending news

Williamsport Police Chief David Young told PennLive that a bad batch of heroin could have sparked the rash of overdoses.

“It’s tough to put a finger on it, since we don’t know what it is or where it came from,” he said.

“Hopefully this batch is out of here.”

The rash of overdoses in the Williamsport area is in line with a drug epidemic that has swept the nation. Opiate-related deaths have risen nearly every year in the last 15 years, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

Teen birth rates in U.S. hit all-time low, CDC says

Over the past two decades, teen birth rates have declined by nearly 65 percent, according to new data released by the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) on Friday.

But last year, the teen birth rate for U.S. women ages 15-19 hit a record low after it fell nine percent since 2015.

To come up with the numbers, researchers at the NCHS obtained birth certificates for 2016. According to the study, the birth certificates represent 99.96 percent of all births in the country as of Feb. 16, 2017.

The researchers found that for every 1,000 women aged 15-19 in 2016, there were 20.3 births — a 51 percent fall from 2007, when there were 41.5 births for every 1,000 women in that age group.

>> On AJC.com: Opinion: Celebrate declines in teen pregnancy

Since 1991, the rate among all teens has plummeted by two-thirds.

"Data [from previous years] really suggests it is access to contraceptives and use of contraceptives that has really led to these kind of changes," Elise Berlan, a physician specializing in adolescent medicine at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, told CNN.

Berlan said most teens are using some form of birth control: condoms, withdrawal and the pill.

Unlike teens, however, the birth rate for women between the ages 30-34 increased last year and women ages 35-39 had their highest birth rate since 1962.

>> Read more trending news

But overall, U.S. fertility rates still hit a historic low in 2016, the CDC and NCHS study found, largely due to fewer young women (teens and 20-somethings) giving birth.

And demographers are debating whether or not these declining fertility rates are leading the country toward a “national emergency,” as some demographers have described, according to the Washington Post.

But some are still optimistic, citing lower fertility rates in other developed countries that have leveled off.

And, as the Washington Post points out, “as fertility treatments have extended the age of childbearing, the birthrates among women who are age 40 to 44 are also rising.”

Read the full CDC and NCHS study.

Narcan may be no match for 2 new fentanyl strains

Two new strains of fentanyl are so deadly that they may be immune to naloxone, also known as Narcan, the drug used to save those who have overdosed, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Tuesday in a news release. 

>> Watch the news report here

>> Police say Narcan prevented them from charging man with DUI

Acrylfentanyl and tetrahydrofuran fentanyl were not identified by the GBI until March, when the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office submitted the drugs as part of forensic evidence. A month later, officials investigated four overdoses that killed two people in the county. At the time, authorities thought the overdoses were caused by a bad batch of deadly drugs such as heroin or fentanyl.

>> Mom who lost son to opioid overdose shares heartbreaking photo

Officials have not said if the two new strains are connected to the overdoses. 

“It is not known how the human body will react to both drugs since they are not intended for human or veterinary use,” GBI spokeswoman Nelly Miles said. “The drugs can be absorbed through the skin and are considered highly dangerous.”

>> Police officer overdoses after accidental contact with fentanyl on traffic stop

One of the drugs – acrylfentanyl – was banned in Georgia in April, she said, and has been on the GBI watch list for months. 

“It’s a very potent drug and there’s a high potential it has already killed people in Georgia,” Miles told WSB-TV. “There are multiple reports that (the drugs are) showing resistance to naloxone.” 

>> Mass overdose kills four, a dozen more hospitalized in Georgia

The new strains come three weeks after four people were killed and dozens suffered from overdoses in a two-day span in Middle Georgia. The chief medical officer at Navicent Health in Macon told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that a new drug in the area was being sold as Percocet. It’s possible the drug could be homemade. 

7 things to know about the human plague, symptoms and how to protect yourself

Two new cases of the human plague have been confirmed in New Mexico Tuesday, according to health officials.

» RELATED: Possible plague case in Georgia 

This year, New Mexico has seen three cases of the plague, the first of which was reported in early June.

>> Read more trending news 

All three cases required hospitalization, according to the New Mexico Department of Health.

Here are seven things to know about the plague:

What is it?

According to Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, plague is a disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis that affects humans and other mammals.

» RELATED: Stray cat's plague death prompts 'fever watch' 

What is the history of plague?

Historians and scientists have recorded three major plague pandemics, according to the CDC.

The first, called the Justinian Plague (after 6th century Byzantine emperor Justinian I), began in A.D. 541 in central Africa and spread to Egypt and the Mediterranean.

The “Great Plague” or “Black Death” originated in China in 1334 and eventually spread to Europe, where approximately 60 percent of the population died of the disease.

» RELATED: The 'Black Death': Are gerbils, not rats, to blame for plague? 

Lastly, the 1860s “Modern Plague,” which also began in China, spread to port cities around the world by rats on steamships, according to the CDC.

In 1894, French bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin discovered the causative bacterium, Yersinia pestis.

Ten million deaths resulted from the last pandemic, which eventually affected mammals in the Americas, Africa and Asia.

It was during this last pandemic that scientists identified infectious flea bites as the culprit in the spread of the disease.

More about the history of plague.

Where in the U.S. is human plague most common?

Human plague usually occurs after an outbreak in which several susceptible rodents die, infected fleas leave the dead rodents and seek blood from other hosts.

These outbreaks usually occur in southwestern states, particularly in Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico, according to the CDC.

» RELATED: Lyme disease risks could increase after mouse plague, experts warn 

According to the World Health Organization, an average of five to 15 cases occur annually in the U.S.

Since 1900, more than 80 percent of those cases have been in the bubonic form.

Worldwide, there are approximately 1,000-3,000 cases of naturally occurring plague reported every year.

More about plague in the U.S.

How do humans and other animals get plague?

Usually, humans get plague after a bite from a rodent flea carrying the bacterium.

Humans can also get plague after handling (touching or skinning) an animal (like squirrels, prairie dogs, rats or rabbits) infected with plague.

According to the CDC, inhaling droplets from the cough of an infected human or mammal (sick cats, in particular) can also lead to plague.

» RELATED: Rare tick-borne illness worries some medical professionals 

What are the types of plague and their symptoms?

Bubonic plague (most common)

  • Tender, warm and swollen nymph nodes in the groin, armpit or neck usually develop within a week after an infected flea bite.
  • Signs and symptoms include sudden fever and chills, headache, fatigue, muscle aches.
  • If bubonic plague is not treated, it can spread to other areas of body and lead to septicemic or pneumonic plague.

Septicemic plague

  • Occurs when bacteria multiply in the bloodstream.
  • Signs and symptoms include fever and chills; abdominal pain; diarrhea; vomiting; extreme fatigue and light-headedness; bleeding from mouth, nose, rectum, under skin; shock; gangrene (blackening, tissue death) in fingers, toes and nose.
  • Septicemic plague can quickly lead to organ failure.

Pneumonic plague (least common)

  • Pneumonic plague, which affects the lungs, is the most dangerous plague and is easily spread person-to-person through cough droplets.
  • Signs and symptoms (within a few hours after infection) include bloody cough, difficulty breathing, high fever, nausea, vomiting, headache, weakness.
  • If it is not treated quickly, pneumonic plague is almost always fatal.

» RELATED: What is Lyme disease and how to avoid it 

How is plague treated?

Immediately see a doctor if you develop symptoms of plague and have been in an area where the disease is known to occur.Your doctor will likely give you strong antibiotics (streptomycin, gentamicin or others) to combat the disease.

If there are serious complications like organ failure or bleeding abnormalities, doctors will administer intravenous fluids, respiratory support and give patients oxygen.

How to protect yourself, your family and your pets against plague

You and your family

The CDC warns against picking up or touching dead animals and letting pets sleep in the bed with you.

Experts also recommend eliminating any nesting places for rodents such as sheds, garages or rock piles, brush, trash and excess firewood.

Other ways to protect yourself and your family include wearing gloves if handling dead or sick animals, using an insect repellent with DEET to prevent flea bites and reporting sick or dead animals to your local health department or to law enforcement officials.

» RELATED: Ticks the season: How to prevent, find and get rid of ticks this summer 

Pets

Flea medicine should be administered regular for both dogs and cats.

Keep your pet’s food in rodent-proof containers and don’t let them hunt or roam in rodent habitats.

If your pet becomes ill, see a veterinarian as soon as possible.

More about plague at CDC.gov.

Woman's photo of son's hospital bill goes viral

A New Jersey mother wants parents and other Americans to know the cost of health care in the country. 

>> Read more trending news 

In a now-viral tweet, Alison Chandra posted a photo of her son's latest hospital bill. Chandra’s son, Ethan, was born with heterotaxy syndrome, a rare genetic disorder in which organs form on the wrong side of the body, CNN reported. 

"Ethan was born with nine congenital heart defects and he has two left lungs. Five or so spleens of dubious function. His liver and his gallbladder are down the middle of his body along with his heart, and then his stomach is on the right instead of the left side," Chandra told CNN.

On Friday, Chandra tweeted a hospital bill for services received from Boston’s Children’s Hospital earlier this year.

"It seems fitting that, with the #TrumpCare debate raging, I got this bill in the mail today from Ethan's most recent open heart surgery," she wrote. “Without insurance we would owe $231,115 for 10 hours in the OR, 1 week in the CICU and 1 week on the cardiac floor.”

Chandra’s tweet has been liked more than 80,000 times and retweeted more than 53,000 times.

"That is why I like to tell our story. Maybe you hadn't thought of this side before. You don't picture a 3-year-old with all these fees,” she said. 

Chandra, who said she didn’t follow politics until November, said she was “shocked at how loudly each side yells about their specific talking points.” 

“It paints these issues as black and white when they are anything but that,” she told CNN. “My fear is that this bill comes into play and suddenly essential health benefits are no longer covered, like hospitalization, prescription medications. (Ethan) will rely on prescription medications for the rest of his life. He is functionally asplenic and will need to take prophylactic antibiotics the rest of his life to prevent and protect against sepsis, a huge risk of death for our kids in the heterotaxy community.

“As a mother with a kid who has disorder you feel alone ... We just want him to be a kid.”

Read more at CNN.

Connecticut educator teaches students life lessons after being diagnosed with ALS

Nearly 11 months after being diagnosed with Asymotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Connecticut educator Andrew Niblock is using his diagnosis to teach students about life.

>> Read more trending news

Niblock, the head of the elementary school at Greenwich Country Day School in Connecticut, said he wanted to continue working after being diagnosed with the disease so that he could teach his students a lesson about life and be an example for them.

“I want children to understand curve balls,” the father of two told ABC News. “No matter what is thrown your way […] if a kid powers through or makes the most of something later because of knowing me, that’d be great.”

>> RELATED: Neighborhood kids use lemonade stand to raise a surprising amount of money for disabled veteran

ALS, a rare and incurable progressive neurodegenerative disease, affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord and causes the brain to be unable to initiate and control muscle movement, according to the ALS Association. As a result, people may lose the ability to speak, eat, move and breathe, with some patients ending up completely paralyzed in the later stages of the disease.

>> RELATED: Mass. teacher battling ALS fired months before earning pension

Instead of hiding the changes occurring to his speech and mobility, Niblock is working with the school’s headmaster to create age-appropriate videos with the goal of teaching students about ALS and spreading awareness about it.

By being open about his battle with the disease, Niblock said he hopes to convey to the students that hope is resilient.

“Hope can drive you forward,” he said. “And I hope […] that the kids see that, and run with it.”

Tick spreading in the US gives people meat allergies 

A bite from the aggressive Lone Star tick could do more than give you an irritable rash — it could potentially induce a dangerous meat allergy.

» RELATED: How to prevent, find and get rid of ticks this summer 

The tick, widely distributed in the southeastern and eastern United States, is spreading to even more areas, including Minnesota, New Hampshire and Long Island, New York, and is making people allergic to just a single bite of meat.

According to Wired.com, something in the tick bite makes people sensitive to the sugar compound alpha-galactose, or alpha-gal, found in meat from mammals.

» RELATED: What is Lyme disease and how to avoid it 

And unlike most allergies, which are dependent on a mix of genetic and environmental factors, alpha-gal allergies seem to affect anyone and everyone, regardless of genetic makeup, Wired reported.

» RELATED: Rare tick-borne illness worries some medical professionals

Some bite victims will experience a hive-like rash or a dangerous anaphylactic reaction about four hours after eating meat. 

» RELATED: WATCH: Young girl left temporarily paralyzed illustrates dangers of tick bites

Such allergies are still incredibly rare and the government hasn’t issued any health warnings yet, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the distribution, range and abundance of the Lone Star tick has increased steadily in the past 20 to 30 years.

» RELATED: Rare tick-borne illness worries some medical professionals “We expect with warming temperatures, the tick is going to slowly make its way northwards and westward and cause more problems than they’re already causing,” Ronald Staff, allergist and clinical professor of medicine, told Business Insider.

» RELATED: Girl dies from possible tick bite

Saff said he's now seeing patients every week who have been bitten by ticks and developed the meat allergy.

The best thing to do while scientists continue research to track and understand the species is to try to prevent tick bites overall.

» RELATED: Woman loses arms, legs after tick bite 

The CDC recommends avoiding tick habitats, using insect repellents with DEET or permethrin and actively checking for ticks after you’ve been outdoors.

Click here to read more on tick prevention and removal tips.

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