Mom shares heartbreaking photo after daughter dies from heroin overdose

Published: Wednesday, August 16, 2017 @ 2:47 AM

What You Need To Know About Heroin

The American opioid epidemic claimed another victim Monday

>> Watch the news report here

The mother of 22-year-old Elaina Towery shared a gut-wrenching photograph of her clutching her daughter just moments before she was taken off life support at a Detroit hospital.

>> See the photo here

Elaina reportedly died due to an overdose of heroin laced with fentanyl. She fell into a coma on Thursday.

Cheryl Towery, 49, told WJBK that her daughter had been battling addiction for seven years.

“She’s my only daughter, my best friend,” Cheryl said. “She was supposed to start her new job today; now she’s on life support.”

>> Doctor saves woman overdosing on flight

She told WJBK that her daughter and a friend had stopped at a Detroit Burger King last week. Elaina went inside to use the restroom. After about 20 to 25 minutes, her friend thought it was odd that she had not returned. Shortly afterward, a Burger King employee found Elaina unconscious on the bathroom floor.

Only moments earlier, Cheryl said, she had received a text message saying her daughter would be home soon.

“By 6 p.m., 6:30, 7, I finally got a message on Facebook,” Cheryl said.

>> How heroin changes our brains and more things to know about the drug

She said her daughter had gone into cardiac arrest.

Elaina had survived five previous overdoses and visits to five different treatment centers, Cheryl said.

“I wasn’t prepared for what I saw in the emergency room,” Cheryl said. “Because that’s the worst I’ve ever seen her.”

She said her daughter’s addiction began in 2010, when she started to abuse prescription drugs to deal with an abusive boyfriend. That boyfriend, who was convicted of domestic abuse and other crimes, is also the father of Elaina’s 5-year-old son, Christopher. She gave up her son due to her addiction, Cheryl said.

What is Fentanyl?

Cheryl believes Elaina giving up her baby contributed to her addiction problems. She was also working as a prostitute, Cheryl told WJBK.

“[She was] beat up, being pimped out, being kept in a hotel room on heroin,” Cheryl said.

>> Read more trending news

Cheryl said she made the decision remove Elaina from life support on Monday after it became clear that her daughter's vital organs were failing and that there was no brain activity.

“I’m going to fight for the rest of my life to make sure the people down here on the street selling this to people need to be locked up,” she said.

Your kitchen sponge is filthier than your toilet, study says

Published: Tuesday, August 08, 2017 @ 1:22 AM

Your Kitchen Sponge Is Filthier Than Your Toilet, Study Says

The toilet bowl holds quite a bit of muck, but according to a recent report, there’s another item in your home that’s even filthier: your kitchen sponge.

Researchers in Germany conducted a study to determine the different types of bacteria found on a sponge. To do so, they sequenced the DNA of 28 samples of bacteria collected from 14 sponges. 

 >> Dirtier than the toilet? These 5 items are among the filthiest in your home

They found 118 genera of bacteria. That’s more than what’s found on toilets. 

"Despite common misconception, it was demonstrated that kitchen environments host more microbes than toilets. This was mainly due to the contribution of kitchen sponges, which were proven to represent the biggest reservoirs of active bacteria in the whole house," the study said.

>> On AJC.com: Toothbrushes can be more germ-ridden than a toilet seat

However, the scientists noted that most of the genera of bacteria discovered was not harmful. The pathogens that were found were most concerning, because those can cause infections among humans. 

>> On AJC.com: How well are you cleaning the 10 filthiest places in your kitchen?

"Kitchen sponges are likely to collect, incubate and spread bacteria from and back onto kitchen surfaces, from where they might eventually find their way into the human body," the study said. “Direct contact of a sponge with food and/or the human hands might transfer bacteria in and onto the human body, where they might cause infections, depending on their pathogenic potential.”

Although many boil or microwave sponges to rid of toxins, analysts found that the latter method only kills 60 percent of bacteria. Plus, the bacteria could increase after cleaning, because the microbes re-colonize. 

>> Read more trending news

To minimize the spread of germs, researchers suggests that people replace their sponges at least once a week.

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

Published: Thursday, July 06, 2017 @ 2:19 AM

Heartburn (stock photo).
nebari/Getty Images/iStockphoto
Heartburn (stock photo).(nebari/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

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.

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

Published: Sunday, July 02, 2017 @ 2:23 AM

SYDNEY, NSW - JUNE 07:  A pregnant woman holds her stomach June 7, 2006 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images)
Ian Waldie/Getty Images
SYDNEY, NSW - JUNE 07: A pregnant woman holds her stomach June 7, 2006 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images)(Ian Waldie/Getty Images)

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.

(CDC, NCHS)

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.”

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

Published: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 @ 3:39 PM

What You Need To Know: The Plague

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.

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