Bikini model claims ‘breast implant illness’ left her with bald spot, rash

Nearly eight years ago, Sia Cooper couldn’t wait to become a better version of herself, thanks to her new breast implants. “It gave me confidence,” the 29-year-old fitness trainer and Instagram model @diaryofafitmommyofficial tells The Post. But the new Sia Cooper didn’t last long. “My health started changing for the worse.” Believing she was suffering from “breast … Continue reading “Bikini model claims ‘breast implant illness’ left her with bald spot, rash”

Nearly eight years ago, Sia Cooper couldn’t wait to become a better version of herself, thanks to her new breast implants.

“It gave me confidence,” the 29-year-old fitness trainer and Instagram model @diaryofafitmommyofficial tells The Post. But the new Sia Cooper didn’t last long.

“My health started changing for the worse.”

Believing she was suffering from “breast implant illness” — a controversial and theoretical autoimmune disease which sufferers believe is caused by silicone implants — Cooper eventually decided to have her implants removed.

“I thought fatigue, hair loss, acne — these things were normal [new] mom things,” says the Florida mother.

TEXAS GIRL'S INOPERABLE BRAIN TUMOR VANISHES

Each year, she says, “I [felt] worse than I did the year before.”

She’d experience facial and abdominal rashes, brain fog, chest pain and joint inflammation so bad she couldn’t lift weights anymore. Eventually, she was losing hair “in clumps” and sleeping 12 to 14 hours a day.

She’s had nonstop blood tests, X-rays and doctor consultations, with results always normal, negative of any conditions.

“I felt so helpless.”

Recently, in a post unrelated to her mysterious symptoms, she divulged to her inquiring Instagram followers that she had breast implants. They responded with comments about breast implant illness.

“It planted a seed in my head,” she says. “Maybe this is it.”

While the FDA does not recognize a breast implant illness (BII) diagnosis, it also states on its website that BPI cannot be entirely dismissed without “much larger and longer” studies. (It also notes a “low but increased likelihood” of being diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), a cancer of the immune system.)

Dr. Daniel Maman, of Manhattan-based 740 Park Plastic Surgery, says Cooper’s symptoms are exceedingly rare and there’s “no medical justification” for them.

BOY LOSES EYE AFTER GETTING SHOT WITH NERF GUN

“Breast implants are the most studied implanted medical devices in the world,” Maman tells The Post. “There has never been a scientific study in any credible medical literature showing an association” between autoimmune diseases and breast implants, “period.”

“There are women certainly that have these unexplained illnesses and then miraculously get better once the implants are removed,” he admits. “But there’s always a placebo effect.”

Cooper — who has no family history of autoimmune diseases — also decided to see the cosmetic surgeon who gave her the implants. In tune with Maman and a majority of their community, he told her there’s little evidence to support BII.

Cooper knew there was no assurance a breast “explant” would help, but, she says, “I was willing to try it.”

Less than two weeks ago, she traveled from her home in Destin, Fla., to Newport Beach, Calif., to have her implants removed by Dr. Jae Chun — a cosmetic surgeon popular in the explant community for his support of these claims. The surgery cost about $7,600 — about $2,100 more than her implants cost in 2011.

“I [can] take a deep breath for the first time,” she says, even with her mending chest. Her posture has improved, inflammation and acne are subsiding, and she’s had a boost of energy. “I have been so productive . . . My body just feels better.”

“I took my doctor for his word,” says Cooper, who wishes she’d asked more questions before getting the implants.

“I just want women to educate themselves — which is something I did not do,” she says. “Do your own research. Be your own health advocate.”

Click for more from the New York Post.

Man who sniffs dirty socks daily hospitalized with fungal infection in lungs, reports say

A man in China who reportedly sniffed his dirty socks each day learned the hard way that his habit is apparently a health danger.

The man, identified only as Peng by the Daily Mail, reportedly developed a habit of sniffing his socks each day after work. But this unusual custom allegedly landed him in the hospital after the Zhangzhou resident complained of chest pains, tightness in his chest and a cough, Science Alert reported.

Initially, doctors at Zhangzhou's 909 Hospital suspected that Peng, 37, had pneumonia. But when his symptoms persisted, doctors re-questioned the man and he eventually admitted he was “addicted to smelling his socks that he had been wearing,” he said, according to the Daily Mail, which cited local Chinese media.

ST. LOUIS WOMAN, 18, SERENADED BY JASON MRAZ DIES WHILE WAITING FOR NEW LUNGS

Physicians would later discover the man had a serious fungal infection in his lungs, more formally known as pulmonary fungal disease. The infection was likely caused when the man inhaled the fungal spores found in the dirty socks, Science Alert reported.

Peng's condition may have been worsened by his “lack of rest,” one of the man’s doctors, Mai Zhuanying, reportedly told Fujian Daily, according to the Daily Mail.

"The infection could also be attributed to the patient's lack of rest at home as he had [been] looking after his child, leading to a weaker immune system," Zhuanying said.

Pulmonary fungal disease, or Aspergillosis, is an infection caused by a certain kind of mold.

"The illnesses resulting from aspergillosis usually affect the respiratory system, but their signs and severity vary greatly,” the Mayo Clinic explains online.

DAD CLAIMS FOOD POISONING LED TO RARE PARALYZING DISORDER

“The mold that triggers the illnesses, aspergillus, is everywhere — indoors and outdoors. Most strains of this mold are harmless, but a few can cause serious illnesses when people with weakened immune systems, underlying lung disease or asthma inhale their spores,” the Mayo Clinic continued, noting the infection can cause wheezing, shortness of breath, or cause the infected person to cough up blood, among other symptoms.

Luckily, Peng is expected to make a full recovery, the Daily Mail reported.

Madeline Farber is a Reporter for Fox News. You can follow her on Twitter @MaddieFarberUDK.

Tennessee dad faces fatal, untreatable illness as family hopes for cure

A Tennessee father who was given a year to live after being diagnosed with an extremely rare degenerative illness now requires 24-hour care at a nursing facility as his family hopes for a cure for the currently untreatable condition. Tony Gibson, a 32-year-old welder and ironworker, initially showed symptoms of confusion and forgetfulness earlier this year, his wife, Danielle, told News Channel 5.

Gibson was diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), which according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, is a degenerative, fatal brain disorder that strikes in about one in a million per year, worldwide. It’s estimated that 350 Americans are diagnosed each year, although it’s typically diagnosed in older patients with symptoms beginning at around 60, and death occurring within one year.

BIKINI MODEL CLAIMS 'BREAST IMPLANT ILLNESS' LEFT HER WITH RASH, BALD SPOT

Patients may first exhibit memory issues, behavioral changes, visual disturbances and lack of coordination before it advances to mental deterioration, blindness, weakness of extremities and coma. Gibson told the news outlet doctors believe her husband’s case is sporadic, which occurs in patients with no known risk factors and accounts for about 85 percent of all CJD cases. There are two other types of CJD, with one often compared to mad cow disease.

According to NINDS, symptoms of sporadic CJD are comparable to those of Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease, but deterioration occurs more quickly in CJD patients. While there are studies underway, no successful treatment has been developed.

TEXAS GIRL'S INOPERABLE BRAIN TUMOR VANISHES

In a Facebook post honoring CJD Awareness Day on Nov. 12, Gibson wrote that her husband went from being a strong man to a 90-year-old within months.

“This is the most devastating thing I’ve ever seen,” Danielle Gibson, who is caring for the couple’s four children at-home, told New Channel 5. “I’ve seen a lot of terrible things. I’ve seen ALS, but this has to be the worst.”

Texas prison allowed flesh-eating infection to ‘eat away’ at inmate’s arm, lawsuit claims

A 37-year-old man who was sentenced to six months in prison on drug charges in 2016 is suing the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) over claims that nobody could take him to the hospital for a flesh-eating bacteria infection (MRSA) that was eating away at his arm due to staff shortages. Harold Millican, who claims he fell while on work assignment at the Gist State Jail, alleges that staff let the infection fester for one week despite his pleas for help, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Millican, who has a projected Aug. 2019 release date and is being represented by attorney Allie Booker, claims that his wound developed MRSA, and that he was taken to the prison infirmary when his foul-smelling wound was developing a green, yellow color and that even then there “was no one available to take him to the hospital.”

BIKINI MODEL CLAIMS 'BREAST IMPLANT ILLNESS' LEFT HER WITH BALD SPOT, RASH

Booker claims that it wasn’t until after her client passed out in his cell that staff found someone available to take him to the hospital.

“TDCJ knew that allowing an abscess that was yellow and green in color, growing, painful, damaging the skin, eating away at the skin and muscle of Plaintiff, and that had a foul odor was dangerous and or harmful to his health,” Millican’s lawsuit claims, according to the Houston Chronicle. “TDCJ knew or should have known that the denial of treatment for a wound such as this was an act that was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff’s health and safety.”

TEXAS GIRL'S INOPERABLE BRAIN TUMOR VANISHES

Booker and Millican claim he was forced to undergo multiple surgeries to control the infection. Photos show several layers of his skin extending from his elbow to his hand cut away. He is seeking at least $200,000, and is requesting more adequate medical training for prison staff.

Jeremy Desel, TDCJ spokesman, told the Houston Chronicle that the department does not comment on pending litigation.

Opioids offer little chronic pain benefit and wane over time, study says

For adults with chronic pain, opioids offer narrow improvements over a placebo for pain and physical functioning, on average, according to a new analysis published Tuesday. And the majority of patients will experience no meaningful benefit.

Those benefits also tend to decrease over time and come with the risk of side effects such as vomiting and constipation, according to the review of nearly 100 randomized trials published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Down the line, risks may include physical dependence and overdose.”The benefits of opioids for managing chronic pain tend to be quite modest,” said study author Jason Busse, associate professor in the department of anesthesia at McMaster University’s school of medicine in Ontario, Canada.

    Doctors increasingly face charges for patient overdosesSubgroups of the studies included in the analysis suggest that non-opioid alternatives — such as NSAIDs, certain antidepressants and medical cannabis — may offer similar benefits to opioids on average. But the evidence for that is less strong, Busse said.The analysis comes as federal agencies and other officials in recent years have been cracking down on the prescription of opioids, dually recognized as an important tool in the treatment of pain and as a gateway to physical dependence and addiction.Read MoreIn 2016, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines urging doctors to prescribe these drugs more responsibly for people with chronic pain. But Busse said the CDC report set the bar for placebo-controlled studies too high in its analysis; it looked for studies that followed up with patients for at least a year, of which there were none.”We have looked at a lot of additional evidence that was not considered by the CDC guidelines,” he said.Dr. Jianguo Cheng, president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine, said the new analysis reinforces what’s become conventional wisdom among pain specialists. He was not involved in the study.”We’re going to try the least risky drug first, so therefore opioids [are] not a first line of treatment in most cases,” said Cheng, also the director of director of the Cleveland Clinic Multidisciplinary Pain Medicine Fellowship Program. “It’s not a second line of treatment, and maybe not a third line of treatment.”The CDC describes chronic pain as “lasting longer than 3 months or past the time of normal tissue healing.” It is among the top reasons for seeking medical care in the US, affecting just over 20% of adults — about 50 million people — in 2016, according to one report this year. Other estimates suggest that the number is twice that.”It’s a very complicated and diverse population of patients,” Cheng said, including those who may have suffered injuries, had multiple surgeries or live with disability.This is differentiated from other kinds of pain, such as acute pain and cancer pain. For the latter, Cheng said, the use of opioids is far less controversial.Just because most of these patients won’t see meaningful improvements, however, is not to ignore the subset that will experience them, Busse said.”A problematic interpretation of [the study findings] would be: Opioids don’t provide any meaningful pain relief,” he said. “The challenge with that interpretation is it assumes that every patient will get the same amount of pain relief.”Opioid history: From 'wonder drug' to abuse epidemicHis study estimates how many chronic pain patients a doctor would need to treat in order for one to experience meaningful improvements: For pain, it’s roughly eight patients. For physical functioning, it’s 12 patients. For sleep quality, 17 patients.And this is the “best case scenario,” according to an editorial published in the same journal by doctors with the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care.The studies included in the analysis largely weeded out patients with past or present substance use disorder, which Busse described as “selecting patients that would be prognostically better off.” Nearly half of the studies excluded patients who were diagnosed with or treated for mental illness, as well.More than three-quarters of studies in the analysis were funded by the pharmaceutical industry, the study points out. Other research has shown that industry-funded studies tend to produce better outcomes across a variety of fields. In recent years, pharmaceutical companies have come under fire for aggressively marketing opioids to doctors. Leading up to the early 2000s, opioids were seen as a wonder drug, and doctors were urged to treat pain more aggressively. Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy wrote in an open letter that doctors were taught that these medications were not addictive if patients were in “legitimate pain.” Multiple studies have shown this to be false.A 2013 study estimated that one in five patients who see a doctor for acute or chronic noncancer pain get prescribed opioids.Another study last year supported a push by the CDC and other health experts to taper chronic pain patients off opioids when possible, saying they may have a better quality of life without them. But Cheng says this should be done carefully and may not work immediately for all patients, adding, “I have seen many patients abandoned by their physicians, and they cannot find the people to manage their pain.”Get CNN Health's weekly newsletter

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    According to Cheng, alternative treatments that may be effective — such as physical and cognitive behavioral therapies — can also be out of reach for many patients, in some cases because insurance doesn’t reimburse these services.

      However, despite gaps in knowledge of treating chronic pain, experts say opioids are part of that arsenal — even if they come with risks and benefits that need to be better understood.”For individuals who are suffering with unrelenting chronic pain every day of their lives, if they’ve tried other alternatives that haven’t worked, they may in some cases decide they still want to embark on a trial of [opioid] therapy,” Busse said, “and now they have the evidence to understand what their chances are of achieving meaningful improvement.”

Morning sickness pill study finds small link to increased risk of clefts but ‘not a cause for alarm’

When a pregnant woman feels persistent nausea and even has to throw up, she might see whether ginger can help settle her stomach, or perhaps plenty of water.

If that doesn’t help, a physician might prescribe doxylamine and pyridoxine, a drug combination often used to treat nausea and vomiting in pregnant women. Still no relief? Then, a physician might recommend something else: ondansetron.The anti-nausea medication, sold under the brand name Zofran, comes in tablet form and primarily is used to prevent nausea and vomiting after cancer chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery.

    Although it’s not formally approved for this purpose, ondansetron also may be prescribed to treat nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, including hyperemesis gravidarum, which is extreme, persistent nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.

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      Hyperemesis: what is severe morning sickness? 02:28Yet there have been some questions around whether ondansetron is safe to use during pregnancy or whether it’s tied to an increased risk of birth defects.Read MoreA new study, published in the medical journal JAMA on Tuesday, appeared to put that question to rest by finding no association between ondansetron and an increased risk of heart-related malformations or other malformations in newborns overall.The study also found a small increased risk of oral clefts, including cleft lip and cleft palate, in babies born to women who used ondansetron. That increased risk accounted for about three additional cases of oral clefts per 10,000 women taking ondansetron in the study — which is smaller than had been suggested in other research, said Krista Huybrechts, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and an epidemiologist at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who was first author of the new study.”There have been some studies conducted in the past that have suggested that there might be a doubling in the risk of cardiac malformations and a doubling in the risk of oral clefts associated with ondansetron use during the first trimester of pregnancy,” Huybrechts said.”Our study is much larger than any of the others that have been published in the literature so far,” she said. “We ended up seeing no association for cardiac malformations, no association for malformations overall, and then a much smaller potential increase in the risk of oral clefts than what had been suggested by previous studies.”Huybrechts and some of her co-authors reported that their institutions have received research grants from various pharmaceutical companies, including GlaxoSmithKline, the first developer of Zofran. The study itself was funded by the National Institutes of Health, and GSK had no involvement.In 2012, GlaxoSmithKline agreed to plead guilty and to pay $3 billion to resolve allegations of fraud and failure to report safety data related to various prescription drugs, including Zofran. The agreement resolved allegations that GSK promoted certain forms of Zofran for the off-label use of treating morning sickness in pregnant women, according to the US Department of Justice.Diclegis: morning sickness drug's efficacy called into questionThe new study seems to fall in line with previous research on ondansetron. One study, published in the journal Reproductive Toxicology in 2016, found no evidence to support a link between ondansetron and adverse fetal outcomes.Another report, published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology this year, found no increased risk associated with using ondansetron for nausea and vomiting in the first trimester of pregnancy, compared with no treatment. That study was from the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University, in collaboration with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.The majority of pregnant women, about 70% to 80%, experience some type of nausea and vomiting, or morning sickness, according to the American Pregnancy Association.For some, those symptoms can be severe. Hyperemesis gravidarum occurs in up to 3% of pregnancies, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.As it turns out, the use of ondansetron to treat these symptoms has been on the rise among moms-to-be in America, used in less than 1% of pregnancies in 2001 but in 22.2% in 2014, according to a study published last year in the journal Pharmacoepidemiology & Drug Safety.

      ‘This is not a cause for alarm’

      For the new study, researchers took a close look at health data on more than 1.8 million pregnant women in the United States between 2000 and 2013. The data came from the nationwide database Medicaid Analytic eXtract.The data showed that 88,467 women filled at least one ondansetron prescription during their first trimester. The data also showed medical claims recorded for each mother’s newborn.Bizarre things your body might do during pregnancyThe researchers found that the risk of oral clefts in newborns was 14 per 10,000 pregnancies exposed to ondansetron, versus 11.1 per 10,000 unexposed pregnancies.The study had some limitations, including that an association in the data does not mean causation, and just because the women filled an ondansetron prescription does not mean they used the drug. Also, the data included only live births, so any birth defects that resulted in losing a pregnancy were not included, and the data included only women with Medicaid insurance.”It’s also important to note that we’re just looking at congenital malformations as a potential outcome here. So obviously, this study does not address any questions in terms of other potential adverse events that might be associated with treatment, or it doesn’t address comparative effectiveness of ondansetron versus other treatment,” Huybrechts said. “But at least with respect to the potential risk of congenital malformations, which is something that is always at the forefront of women’s minds, we hope that this study will provide reassurance,” she said. Tips to help ease your morning sickness

      Changing what you eat might help:

        Try eating foods high in protein and complex carbohydrates, such as peanut butter on apple slices or celery, or cheese and soda crackers or dry toast.Avoid large meals.Stay hydrated, and drink plenty of liquids.Try eating foods that contain ginger, such as ginger tea or ginger ale.

        Changing how you take your prenatal vitamins might help:

          Try taking your vitamins at night, since you might be able to sleep through any irritation they may cause.Talk to your doctor about possibly increasing vitamin B6 in your diet.

          Any other tips?

            Avoid poorly ventilated spaces and irritating smells.Do not smoke, and avoid areas where people are smoking.Talk to your doctor about trying acupressure wrist bands or acupuncture.

            Source: US National Library of Medicine

            Dr. Shaun Carstairs, an emergency physician and medical toxicologist at the University of California, San Diego’s School of Medicine, has seen the symptoms of frequent vomiting and nonstop nausea during pregnancy many times.”Working in the emergency department, I see a lot of patients who come in with nausea and vomiting due to pregnancy — and it certainly can be a very challenging condition to treat sometimes, because there are a number of medications that women can use, sometimes women don’t get any benefit from some of these medications,” said Carstairs, who was not involved in the new study but authored a 2016 Obstetrics & Gynecology study that found the overall risk of birth defects associated with ondansetron exposure to be low. For that study, he reviewed eight previously published studies on ondansetron use in early pregnancy. The new JAMA study adds to that body of research, he said.”My bottom line take on this study is that, number one, this is not a cause for alarm for the general public. This is one study in the context of an entire body of literature on this subject of ondansetron and birth defects,” Carstairs said. “I think it’s also important to keep in mind that the risks of any medication — whether it’s ondansetron or any other medication — need to be balanced against the risks of inadequate treatment or no treatment, particularly in those patients that have severe nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, or hyperemesis gravidarum,” he said. “Those conditions carry some real risks themselves — dehydration, electrolyte abnormalities — and a lot of these patients require admission to the hospital if they’re not adequately treated.”

            The history of concerns around taking medicine while pregnant

            Marlena Fejzo, a faculty researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles’ David Geffen School of Medicine, called the new study “reassuring.”Get CNN Health's weekly newsletter

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            “It would be helpful in the future to determine exactly which week of first trimester exposure is associated with the increase in risk of oral clefts. Then patients could avoid exposure specifically during that time,” said Fejzo, who was not involved in the study but has conducted separate research on ondansetron in pregnancy and adverse outcomes.After all, there is a long history of prescribing medications off-label to treat symptoms of pregnancy in women, she added.”This is because of the thalidomide disaster, where women took thalidomide to treat [hyperemesis gravidarum] in the 1950s and ’60s and babies were born with limb deformities. After that, pharmaceutical companies stopped testing medications in pregnant women,” Fejzo said, and so often, the data is lacking on how a certain medication may affect a woman’s pregnancy.

              Also, in 1979, the US Food and Drug Administration began reviewing all prescription and over-the-counter medications to develop risk categories for use in pregnancy.”Society would benefit greatly from a national database and a requirement of providers to report exposure timing and outcomes for off-label prescriptions to pregnant women. With so many pregnant women taking ondansetron in the US, we could have a final answer on this very quickly,” she said. “The answer is out there, and we owe it to pregnant women and their children to get it.”

Antarctic penguins in danger from human diseases, researchers say

Scientists have long thought that animals in Antarctica were isolated from harmful human-linked bacteria, but a new study provides evidence that this is no longer the case.

Previous studies had found scattered instances of transmission of bacteria from humans to animals, known as reverse zoonosis, in the region, but research remained fragmented.Now, however, researchers have found widespread evidence of human-linked pathogens among Antarctic seabirds for the first time — which they say could have devastating consequences for the continent’s wildlife.

    “This is the first time that such a wide-ranging study, in terms of geography and bird species, has been carried out in the Southern Ocean, which shows reasonably solid evidence of reverse zoonosis in the Antarctic,” study author Jacob González-Solís, a researcher in the Department of Zoology and Biological Anthropology at the University of Barcelona, wrote in an email.A Gentoo penguin in AntarcticaBirds including penguins, brown skuas, southern giant petrels and kelp gulls were found to have picked up bacteria such as campylobacter and salmonella, according to the study, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.Read MoreThe team took samples of feces from more than 600 adult seabirds in four locations — Livingston Island, Marion Island, Gough Island and the Falkland Islands — between 2008 and 2011, with three findings suggesting reverse zoonosis.Samples showed campylobacter jejuni, a common cause of food poisoning in the United States and Europe, including genotypes that had rarely or never been found in wild birds before.Others contained campylobacter lari, common in skuas and gulls. However, the team found that these strains were resistant to commonly used human and veterinary antibiotics ciprofloxacin and enrofloxacin, which suggests contamination from humans or domestic animals.Researchers also found a strain of salmonella usually detected in scavenging birds that live in urban areas.Although these bacteria are not associated with high death rates in animals, their presence shows that other, more dangerous pathogens could arrive on the continent, said study author Marta Cerdà-Cuéllar, a researcher at the Institute of Agrifood Research and Technology in Barcelona.”If these pathogens were able to arrive, so will others,” Cerdà-Cuéllar wrote in an email. “We can say that any [Antarctic] bird or mammal could be affected by a zoonotic agent.”And that could have devastating consequences.”This means that sooner or later human activity will introduce pathogens to Antarctic fauna that could cause mass deaths and even local extinctions,” González-Solís said.Although the study says evidence of reverse zoonosis is fairly solid, the authors are not sure how the birds came into contact with the bacteria. “There are various possibilities, the most likely is contact between Antarctic and sub-Antarctic fauna with domestic birds in sub-Antarctic communities such as the Falklands, but they could also be the legacy of old whaling missions, Antarctic research stations and the growth in Antarctic tourism,” González-Solís said.With increasing numbers of tourists potentially to blame, the authors recommend tighter controls on visitors.”To prevent the arrival of pathogens, stricter biosecurity measures will be necessary in order to limit the impact of humans in Antarctica,” Cerdà-Cuéllar said.According to Jonas Bonnedahl, lecturer in clinical sciences in the Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine at Sweden’s Linköping University, humans have spread pathogens in the Antarctic that have, on rare occasions, spread to wildlife.”I also think it is fair to say that it is the permanent research bases that have to be blamed here, rather than the tourism industry,” Bonnedahl, who has researched human-linked bacteria in the Antarctic and was not involved in the study, wrote in an email. “Much has happened in the last years and I think that most nations now put more effort in biosecurity concerning sewage from research bases.” However, he agrees that the rise in tourist numbers is a concern.The number of visitors to Antarctica has been steadily creeping up in recent years, with 44,367 tourists traveling there during the 2016-17 season.These revelations about the potential impact of tourism in Antarctica add to growing concern over visitor numbers in other parts of the world. Otter Trail in South Africa has a waiting list to hike its rugged paths The Galápagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador are arguably the most famous natural habitat in the world, and visitors are limited to specific sites and marked trails only, and a guide is required at all times. The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is another destination that attempts to control visitor numbers, with a “high value, low impact” tourism policy that sees visitors charged $200 or $250 per day, depending on the time of year.

      Locals have cited concerns about the environmental impact on its fragile ecosystem, as well as an over-reliance on foreign visitors.And South Africa’s famous Otter Trail coastal hiking route has such a limited number of places available that hikers have to book up to a year in advance.

Q&A: The future of millions of people’s health insurance is uncertain

On Friday, a federal judge in Texas struck down the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, but that doesn’t mean the law is dead — yet. Here’s what you need to know.

What did the judge decide?

Texas District Judge Reed O’Connor ruled that the part of the law that mandated that people get coverage was unconstitutional, and because the mandate was “essential to and inseverable from the remainder of the ACA,” the rest of the law would have to be thrown out, as well.

    Amid Obamacare uncertainty, Dems divided on health care as 2020 approaches”Individual Mandate can no longer be fairly read as an exercise of Congress’s Tax Power,” O’Connor wrote, “and it is still impermissible under the Interstate Commerce Clause — meaning the Individual Mandate is unconstitutional.”

    Didn’t Congress eliminate the individual mandate?

    Read MoreIn December 2017, as part of tax reform legislation, Congress essentially eliminated the mandate, reducing the penalty that Obamacare required if someone didn’t have insurance. The penalty goes down to $0 in 2019. It was that change that gave the Texas attorney general, along with 17 Republican state attorneys general and two governors, an opportunity to file a lawsuit arguing that if this key part of the law was eliminated, the entire law is unconstitutional.Collins says Texas court ruling on ACA 'will be overturned on appeal'The Trump administration refused to defend Obamacare in court. California and 16 other Democratic-led states stepped in to argue that the mandate was constitutional and that even without it, the law should still stand.

    Will people still get their health care through the insurance exchanges?

    On Saturday, the last day of open enrollment, a red banner on top of HealthCare.gov, where people sign up for Obamacare, read, “Court’s decision does not affect 2019 enrollment or coverage.”President Donald Trump celebrated the ruling Friday, but the White House noted later in the day that, pending appeals, the “law remains in place.”

    As I predicted all along, Obamacare has been struck down as an UNCONSTITUTIONAL disaster! Now Congress must pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions. Mitch and Nancy, get it done!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 15, 2018

    The deadline to sign up for coverage was Saturday in most states. People getting their insurance for 2019 this way are still good to go. It’s unclear what will happen to those customers in the future. Nearly 10.3 million people got their insurance this way in 2018.If the ruling stands, millions may have to find insurance another way, if they can. Obamacare was created in part so people could find a plan that was affordable and would cover them even if they had a pre-existing condition. Obamacare also expanded who was eligible for Medicaid. If the law is completely struck down, their insurance could also be in jeopardy. Nearly 10 million additional Americans gained coverage through the Medicaid expansion.

    Who else would be affected?

    “The ACA is pretty baked into our health care system now,” said Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow and expert on health reform and private insurance with the Kaiser Family Foundation. “Making it go away is not that easy.”Essentially, anyone who uses the health care system could be affected. The nearly 2,000-page law radically reshaped the system.Under Obamacare, employers with 50 employees or more had to offer benefits to those who work more than 30 hours a week. The law also changed the quality of care that insurance had to cover. Under Obamacare, health insurance plans must carry 10 essential benefits that include emergency services, hospitalization, pregnancy, mental health, prescription drugs, lab work, rehab, outpatient care, preventive care such as birth control, mammograms and cholesterol tests. Pediatric services such as dental and vision care are also included.Here's what's at risk in the Texas Obamacare rulingPeople up to the age of 26 were also allowed to stay on their parents’ health insurance under Obamacare. Obamacare eliminated lifetime limits, meaning policies can’t be maxed out. And the 133 million people with pre-existing conditions could no longer be turned away or charged more by insurance companies. Previously, even people with acne could be denied coverage.It improved benefits for Medicare Advantage enrollees, slowed the growth of payment rates to hospitals and offered preventive health care free to Advantage patients.And there are initiatives that go far beyond what you’d see with your own insurance. Obamcare set up plans to address waste, fraud and abuse in the system. It created a CMS innovation center that tests ways to save money on health expenses. It held hospitals more accountable. It created taxes that helped pay for the programs. There were new financial disclosure rules for doctors and pharmacists. Nonprofit hospitals had to conduct community assessments and make sure they were meeting the health needs of the community.”The law is extensive and goes far beyond coverage and financial assistance for patients,” Pollitz said.

    What options would there be without the law?

    It’s unclear and too soon to tell whether the alternative — buying health insurance on your own — would cost more, but that is likely for those who are older and sicker. Younger and healthier people would likely be able to buy cheaper but skimpier policies, as in the past. Insurance companies could also go back to offering plans that cover very little and denying people coverage if they have pre-existing conditions.

    What happens next?

    “Most legal scholars I heard this weekend, regardless of their politics, seem to think this decision was vast overreach and would be overturned if reviewed by higher courts,” Pollitz said. “We will have to see what happens.”The parties in the lawsuit will meet this week and have to file briefs by January 4 to determine the next steps. The judge did not grant an injunction, so it’s unclear whether this is a final judgment on the law or if it could be stayed or appealed.Get CNN Health's weekly newsletter

    Sign up here to get The Results Are In with Dr. Sanjay Gupta every Tuesday from the CNN Health team.

      The office of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who called the ruling “an assault,” suggested that the state would appeal. The case could go to the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, a conservative court. If that court upholds the ruling, it could make its way to the US Supreme Court. It’s a legal battle that could take years.

How barbershops could help lower blood pressure

Corey Thomas admitted to his pharmacist that he hated the blood pressure medications a previous doctor had prescribed for him. They came with “horrible” side effects, he said, and so he rarely took them.

As a blood pressure monitor squeezed snugly around his arm, the pharmacist counseled Thomas, 49, on his diet and stress level while checking his blood pressure. She then helped Thomas find a medication better suited for his body.

    Thomas was not at a health clinic or pharmacy or a primary care physician’s office.He was at the barbershop where he works in Inglewood, California. As part of a study, these health services were provided at his barbershop and others across Los Angeles County.The study, published Monday in the New England Journal of Medicine, tested whether pharmacist-led programs in barbershops could significantly lower high blood pressure in black men in the United States.Read MoreResults from six months after the study, published in March, showed that when the guidance was coupled with medication, a blood pressure level of less than 130/80 was achieved among 63.6% of men who participated in the study’s program, versus 11.7% of those who didn’t.Results from 12 months after the study show that when guidance was coupled with medication, a blood pressure measurement of less than 130/80 was achieved by 68% of men who participated in the study program, versus 11% of those who didn’t.

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      Check, change, and control your blood pressure 02:36″To a certain extent, I was surprised by the magnitude of the effect of the intervention,” said Ciantel Blyler, a clinical pharmacist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles who was a co-author of the study. “Especially once we sat down and looked at the blood pressure control rates and we were comparing the intervention group and the control group, I was sort of taken aback,” she said.Normal blood pressure levels for adults are 120/80 or less, and high blood pressure levels are 140/90 or higher, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Levels in between are considered at risk.”The first number, called systolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats,” the CDC says. “The second number, called diastolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart rests between beats.”How to get blood pressure down to 120Many older black men tend to avoid seeing the doctor until they have a serious health problem, and then they “use the emergency room as a doctor,” Thomas said.”If it wasn’t for the program, a lot of guys wouldn’t have known they had high blood pressure,” he said of the study. “Unfortunately, I wish we had other programs to come in, too.”The reasons why some black men avoid physicians are complex and sometimes involve a deep-rooted distrust of the medical community. Many men also face geographic, cultural or other barriers to accessing adequate health care.On the other hand, the barbershop represents a safe haven in the black community — a no-judgment zone — where conversations about health and other personal topics are commonplace. As a barber, “we know more about our customers than their spouses do,” Thomas said.

      Shape your hair and your blood pressure

      The prevalence of high blood pressure among black adults in the United States is among the highest in the world, according to the American Heart Association. More than 40% of non-Hispanic black men and women have high blood pressure.Black Americans also develop high blood pressure more often and at an earlier age than whites and Hispanics, according to the CDC.High blood pressure, which increases risk of heart disease and stroke, affects 1.13 billion people globally, according to the World Health Organization. More than one in five adults worldwide have high blood pressure, which causes about half of all deaths from heart disease and stroke.Barber Eric Mohammad and Mark Sims, seated, checking Sims’ blood pressure for the new study. The new study included 319 black men across 52 black-owned barbershops in California’s Los Angeles County. The men, 35 to 79 years old, had systolic blood pressure of 140 or more.The researchers randomly assigned the men, based on their barbershop, to participate in the pharmacist-led program or to a control group between February 2015 and July 2017.In the program group, barbers encouraged the men to meet with specially trained pharmacists at the barbershop to help monitor their blood pressure. The pharmacists could prescribe drug therapy under a collaborative agreement with the men’s doctors. Study urges more intensive management of high blood pressureAt his barbershop, Thomas said, many customers were hesitant to open up to the pharmacists and doctors and to meet with them for health consultations.”No one wanted to do it,” he said. “But by them being there — they were in there every day — and then we got used to them, and they warmed up to everybody. … Then a lot of guys eventually were like, ‘I’ll go. Let me make sure I’m OK.’ “Blyler said it didn’t take long for the customers to warm up to her and her colleagues.”They understood that we were there with good intentions. It was a very comfortable environment, and folks were very welcoming, and it really worked,” she said.In the control group, barbers encouraged the men to make lifestyle changes and doctor appointments, but not much else changed in their usual barbershop visits.By the end of the study, the researchers found that the barbers’ role in encouraging the men to monitor and improve their health resulted in a significant reduction in blood pressure, when coupled with medication from the pharmacists.In participants assigned to the pharmacist-led program, the average reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure were 21.6 and 14.9 greater, respectively, than in those assigned to the control group at six months, the researchers found.At 12 months, the average reductions were “statistically indistinguishable” from the six-month data, according to the researchers.

      ‘Medical mistrust has been an important barrier’

      The study had some limitations, including that it was not blind, because both participants and researchers knew who was assigned to the pharmacist-led program and who was in the control group. Additionally, more research is needed to determine whether similar study results would occur on a national level, since the study was conducted only in the Los Angeles area. Also, pharmacists aimed to lower blood pressure in the program participants to less than 130/80, whereas the primary care providers of those in the control group probably targeted a blood pressure of less than 140/90.The blood pressure goal of less than 130/80 is consonant with new clinical practice guidelines that were released last year, Blyler said.Nearly half of Americans now have high blood pressure, based on new guidelinesThe study appears to fall in line with previous research exploring the role barbershops could have in preventing death and disease in the black community, said Dr. Joseph Ravenell, an internist at NYU Langone Health and associate professor of Population Health and Medicine at NYU School of Medicine in New York.Ravenell was not involved in the study, but he was among the first to research how interventions in barbershops could help black men access basic health care and improve various outcomes, such as high blood pressure or even colon cancer.In a study published in the American Journal of Public Health in August, Ravenell and his colleagues found that helping black men in barbershops through the process of registering for a colorectal cancer screening led to those men being significantly more likely to get screened over six months.The researchers found that 17.5% of men who received help were screened, compared with 8.4% of those who didn’t receive the screening help.Black Americans living longer, but racial gap remains, CDC says”Medical mistrust has been an important barrier to African-Americans seeking health care, and so the barbershop — where men go on a monthly basis and have an opportunity to develop a rapport with a trusted key opinion leader in the community — that rapport is a perfect foundation for talking about health,” Ravenell said.”We know that when it comes to people being receptive to health messages, the setting and the mood that people are in can have an impact on how open they are to receiving those messages,” he said. “Since the barbershop is a place where men want to be, it’s a place that’s known for open collegial conversation, it really is a perfect place to relay health messages that are important for black men.”

      The history of barbershops as havens for health

      Using the barbershop for medical outreach efforts dates to medieval times, when barbers also were medical practitioners who sometimes performed surgery, often on those wounded in war. One barber-surgeon, Leonardo Fioravanti, even influenced the development of reconstructive surgery.In the 19th century in the United States, barbers were among some of the first entrepreneurs and business owners in the black community. In the post-Reconstruction South of the 1890s, black-owned barbershops with white clientele were often targets of vandalism and arson by white mobs, and black barbers began opening more shops in the black community specifically to serve black clientele.Follow CNN Health on Facebook and Twitter

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      In the years to come, as racial segregation laws limited the spaces where black Americans could gather, the barbershop served as a safe meeting space for the black community. In barbershops, black men could speak openly and honestly about a range of topics, including their health — and that seems to continue today.

        “I think that what’s so wonderful about health outreach in the barbershop: It’s a comfortable place,” Blyler said. “Folks can ask questions or get information about their health in a ‘low-stakes,’ relaxed environment,” she said. “Barbershops are a social hub for black men, a place where they gather, when getting a haircut or not, and share information.”

Daughter signs for deaf dad at rock concert and doesn’t miss a beat

Rocking out at a concert, Kari Carberry didn’t miss a beat as she signed the lyrics of the songs for her deaf dad in Canada last week.

This father-daughter duo bonded over their love for the rock group Three Days Grace, and at the concert in Edmonton, Alberta, on Wednesday they quickly went viral with a video showing Kari, 19, signing for her dad, Darrin.Darrin Carberry, 53, was born deaf but wears a hearing aid in one ear that gives him some hearing, according to Kari Carberry.

    A fellow concertgoer, Jules Maria, recorded the duo and posted a 30-second clip on Facebook that has been viewed 14 million times and growing.”At last night’s concert, we witnessed something absolutely beautiful,” posted Maria. “We couldn’t care less about what was happening on stage, watching them was absolutely mesmerizing.”Read MoreKari Carberry said she noticed people recording her during the concert but was enjoying the moment with her dad.”He is the one who got me listening to the band,” she said. “When I saw they were going to be in Edmonton, my dad was the first person I asked to go with me.”Three Days Grace took notice of the video and shared it on their Facebook page.”This is the coolest thing on the internet right now!!! so sweet,” reads the post by the band.The drummer, Neil Sanderson, reached out to Kari Carberry on Facebook to tell her how amazing the moment was, she said.”For one of them to reach out personally was really cool,” she said.”I’ve received so many messages from across the world of people commenting on the video,” she said. “The responses have been overwhelming.”What’s next for the father-daughter duo?

      “We definitely will be looking for more concerts in the future,” she said. Right now her top choices are: Nickelback, Theory of a Deadman or Metallica.