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From KQED

San Jose Police Crack Down On Violence

The San Jose Police Department is cracking down on violent crime after the city's 25th homicide this year.

KQED Launches Affordable Care Act Guide

Are you confused about Obamacare? KQED and The California Report created a guide to help answer your questions about the Affordable Care Act.

San Diego Mother Mourns While Mental Health Gaps Persist

Insurance companies create so many obstacles to getting mental health care, some Californians don't get the right care -- or any care at all. State regulators are supposed to police the situation, but some advocates say they're too cozy with the insurance industry.

Undocumented Kids Soon Eligible for Medi-Cal

Starting Monday, 170,000 undocumented kids will be able to get comprehensive health care through the state's Medi-Cal program for low-income Californians. They'll have access to routine doctors' visits, dental, vision and mental health care.

PBS NewsHour

FDA warns against cookie dough after E. coli outbreak

Photo by Flickr user Scott Rubin

Photo by Flickr user Scott Rubin

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned Thursday that eating raw cookie dough may be harmful to your health following a bacterial outbreak of Escherichia coli that prompted the recall of millions of pounds of flour.

“Eating raw dough or batter—whether it’s for bread, cookies, pizza or tortillas—could make you, and your kids sick,” Jenny Scott, an FDA advisor said in a statement. E. coli infection can cause abdominal cramps, vomiting, fever, aches and diarrhea.

The E. coli outbreak, which has sickened dozens of people across the country, has been traced back to General Mills flour. Testing showed the strain was linked to bacteria in a Kansas City, Mo. flour facility. General Mills recalled 10 million pounds of flour earlier this month.

The FDA recommends people wash their hands after handling raw dough and follow directions for cooking baked goods “at proper temperatures.” The agency also warns parents against letting children play with raw dough in the house or in restaurants.

The post FDA warns against cookie dough after E. coli outbreak appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Zika virus a concern for poor urban areas along Gulf Coast

Material to prevent Zika infection by mosquitoes are displayed at the 69th World Health Assembly at the United Nations
         European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse - RTX2ECWU

Material to prevent Zika infection by mosquitoes are displayed at the 69th World Health Assembly at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, May 23, 2016. Photo by Denis Balibouse/Reuters

HOUSTON — The poorest parts of Houston remind Dr. Peter Hotez of some of the neighborhoods in Latin America hardest hit by Zika.

Broken window screens. Limited air conditioning. Trash piles that seem to re-appear even after they’re cleaned up.

On a hot, humid day this month, Hotez pointed at one pile that included old tires and a smashed-in television with water pooling inside. It was a textbook habitat for the mosquitoes that carry and transmit the Zika virus, and one example of the challenge facing public health officials.

“I’m showing you Zika heaven,” said Hotez, the tropical medicine dean at Baylor College of Medicine.

Hotez and other tropical disease specialists are most concerned about impoverished urban areas along the Gulf Coast, where the numbers of the mosquito that spreads Zika are expected to spike. Texas already has dealt with dengue fever, transmitted by the same mosquito.

Zika causes only a mild and brief illness, at worst, in most people. But it can cause fetal death and severe brain defects in the children of women infected during pregnancy.

So far, Texas officials have reported 48 people infected with Zika, all associated with travel. In one case, the virus was sexually transmitted by someone who had been infected abroad.

[Watch Video]

Public health officials have spent months preparing for what they are certain will be at least some locally transmitted cases. “It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when,” said Dr. Umair Shah, the executive director of the Harris County public health department.

Florida and other states in the South where the Aedes aegypti mosquito is present also are taking steps to prepare. In Florida, for example, Gov. Rick Scott used his emergency powers last week to authorize spending up to $26.2 million for Zika.

His action comes as Congress remains stalemated on President Barack Obama’s $1.9 billion proposal to fight the virus. A scaled-back $1.1 billion Republican-drafted measure was blocked in the Senate on Tuesday by Democrats opposed to its denial of new funding for Planned Parenthood clinics in Puerto Rico, where there already are more than 1,800 locally acquired cases, and to easing rules on pesticide spraying.

In Texas, major cities have sophisticated mosquito screening programs and years of dealing with other mosquito-borne illnesses like dengue and West Nile virus. But local authorities in most of the state have limited or no mosquito surveillance. The mosquitoes they do capture are typically sent to outside labs, and getting results can take weeks.

The smallest counties often have a single person driving around conducting surveillance — “Chuck in a truck,” Hotez calls it.

The state health department has spent more than $400,000 since the start of the year to expand its lab capacity and to buy mosquito traps. It also launched a $2 million Zika awareness campaign.

Shah said there are cuts that can be made, “but there comes a point where you stretch people too much.”

In Harris County, which encompasses Houston and is the third-most populous county in the U.S., officials aren’t waiting for the federal government. They purchased their own testing machines and have retrofitted two labs to run tests only for Zika to get results faster.

Mosquito traps are set out on lawns and inside sewers in more than 250 designated areas. Thus far, no mosquitoes have tested positive for Zika.

If one does, the county will send out three-person investigative teams and use staff from other agencies and volunteers to clear any containers with water and other possible mosquito breeding grounds.

Other counties don’t have the same capacity.

Hidalgo County, which covers McAllen and poor areas along the border with Mexico, is using 12 traps to collect mosquitoes for testing, county health director Eduardo Olivarez said. Officials also are trying to get residents to clean up trash and install window and door screens.

He is stymied by the problem of old tires collecting across the county, apparently on their way to and from Mexico.

The county has several “colonias,” settlements with recent immigrants that often lack running water or basic infrastructure. Still, Olivarez says he’s not expecting large Zika outbreaks because even the poorest parts of his county are less congested and have more air conditioning.

“Do we have poor areas? Can we look at improving our areas? Definitely,” Olivarez said. “But I get people who get dengue and West Nile, and they live in air-conditioned homes.”

Against the backdrop of the preparations are memories of what happened two years ago, when Texas was caught unprepared when a Liberian man arrived in Dallas carrying the Ebola virus. It wasn’t until two weeks later that Texas announced a state task force of Ebola experts and agency leaders, and designated a hospital to treat more patients.

This time, a 31-member Zika task force is already in place. The state says it’s better prepared to coordinate with doctors, county health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Ebola was totally unexpected,” said Carrie Williams, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services. “No state thought it would be first and we didn’t have the benefit of prior warning or having an established plan with time to practice.

“With Zika, we have been actively working on delaying or preventing it before it’s really here,” she said.

The post Zika virus a concern for poor urban areas along Gulf Coast appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

The man who studies how Americans die

In 2014, 2.6 million Americans died, according to the latest available government data, and the death rate dipped to
         724.6 deaths per 100,000 people, down 1 percent compared to the previous year and a record low. Photo by Thomas Hawk/Flickr

In 2014, 2.6 million Americans died, according to the latest available government data, and the death rate dipped to 724.6 deaths per 100,000 people, down 1 percent compared to the previous year and a record low. Photo by Thomas Hawk/Flickr

Bob Anderson has a good idea of what can kill you.

For two decades, he has studied mortality data pulled from millions of U.S. death certificates by the National Center for Health Statistics. He looks for patterns in that data, and he oversees when the agency releases annual figures for death and the leading reasons why people die nationwide.

In 2014, 2.6 million Americans died, according to the center’s latest available data, and the death rate dipped to 724.6 deaths per 100,000 people, down 1 percent compared to the previous year and a record low. Heart disease caused nearly one out of four of those deaths. And from birth, the average American can expect to live nearly 79 years.

No surprises here, if you ask Anderson.

“We generally don’t see big increases or decreases year to year,” he said.

Over the years, this massive dataset’s biggest shift that Anderson can recall occurred when stroke dropped from the third-highest ranking cause of death in 2007, he said. Nearly a decade later, it’s now the fifth-leading cause of death among Americans.

Studying the way Americans die can be grim, Anderson said, but his work has fostered a positive perspective about what is most likely to result in death, and what isn’t. For example, just 10 conditions in 2014 accounted for nearly 75 percent of all U.S. deaths. At the same time, he is “tuned into things that people often don’t think about,” such as arthropod-borne viral encephalitis, of which three people died in 2014.

“Here’s this disease you’ve never thought about before, and you’re thinking about it now,” he said.

Top 10 U.S. Deaths by Percent in 2014

    • 23.4%

Heart disease

    • 22.5%

Cancer

    • 5.6%

Chronic lower respiratory diseases

    • 5.2%

Accidents, such as car wrecks and falls

    • 5.1%

Cerebrovascular diseases, such as stroke

    • 3.6%

Alzheimer’s disease

    • 2.9%

Diabetes mellitus

    • 2.1%

Influenza and pneumonia

    • 1.8%

Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis

    • 1.6%

Suicide
Source: National Center for Health Statistics

The post The man who studies how Americans die appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

18 million people served by water systems with lead violations in 2015, report says

A new report indicates more than 5,000 community waterway systems around the country break the EPA's Lead and Copper
         Rule. Photo by Rebecca Cook/Reuters

A new report indicates more than 5,000 community waterway systems around the country break the EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule. Photo by Rebecca Cook/Reuters

More than 18 million Americans received their drinking water from systems with lead violations in 2015, according to a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The research indicates more than 5,000 community waterway systems nationwide break the Lead and Copper Rule, a federal regulation managed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This law requires that water utilities avoid unnecessary exposure to high lead in water by using remedial measures, including corrosion control, lead pipe replacement and public education.

Many violations in the listed communities, including Flint, Michigan, are not entered into the EPA’s database, according to the report entitled What’s in Your Water? Flint and Beyond.

“Basically, there’s no cop on the beat,” said Erik Olson, health program director at NRDC.

The environmental advocacy group found that 90 percent of the violations in drinking water systems faced no formal enforcement, and only 3 percent faced penalties. Olson said shoddy data collection, lax enforcement of the law and cities gaming the system have created unsafe drinking water conditions for millions of people across the nation.

In regards to under reported violations in EPA’s database system, the following disclaimer can be found on the agency’s website:

“EPA is aware of inaccuracies and underreporting of some data in the Safe Drinking Water Information System. We are working with the states to improve the quality of the data.”

Marc Edwards, an environmental engineer at Virginia Tech who exposed the lead crisis in Flint, was not surprised by NRDC’s findings. His extensive research on water pollution has uncovered high levels of lead in major water systems, such as in Washington D.C. a decade ago.

“This is what we’ve been screaming to EPA about since 2004,” Edwards told PBS NewsHour.

Edwards believes the EPA needs to take greater strides to follow and enforce the Lead and Copper Rule. He says that he has written the agency on multiple occasions expressing his concern for the situation, but has yet to see any results.

In an email to the NewsHour, EPA spokesperson Monica Lee stated her agency recognizes the ongoing challenges in compliance with the Lead and Copper Rule. Lee said the EPA works closely with state agencies, which are the first line of oversight of drinking water systems under the Safe Drinking Water Act, and therefore perform the majority of enforcement actions.

“The agency has intensified work with state drinking water programs with a priority focus on implementation of the rule, including engagement with every state drinking water program across the country to ensure they are addressing any high lead levels and fully implementing the current rule,” Lee wrote.

According to the report, not every resident served by these systems is known to have excessive lead in their water, because only a small percentage of homes were tested, and lead levels can vary from home to home. However, industry estimates say that from 15 million to 22 million Americans are served drinking water through lead service lines, the pipes connecting a residence to the water main that can release lead into tap water.

EPA stated that their officials are responding to lead contamination violations with technical or compliance assistance, issuing notices of violation, or formal administrative or judicial enforcement action. Many water systems with violations in 2015 are already working with state regulators and the EPA to resolve past issues and return to compliance with the Lead and Copper Rule.

“Americans take it for granted that the water flowing from their home taps is clean and safe, but all too often, that assumption is wrong,” Olson said.

The post 18 million people served by water systems with lead violations in 2015, report says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.