The pathogens lurking in our pools and lakes: What you need to know

Natalia Sterleva/iStockBY: DR. LAITH ALEXANDER

(NEW YORK) — Some have been called “flesh-eating,” others “brain-eating.”

Certain strains of very rare, dangerous microbes made headlines this summer after people contracted infections, fell ill and in some cases, died.

A New Jersey man lost all his limbs after contracting an infection from the Vibrio vulnificus bacteria while crabbing on the beach. The ‘brain-eating’ amoeba Naegleria fowleri was behind the death of a North Carolina man who contracted the infection after swimming in a man-made lake.

Here’s what you need to know about these menacing microbes.

What are the pathogens?

The bacteria Vibrio vulnificus is called a ‘flesh-eater’ because it causes necrotizing fasciitis: a skin condition in which the body’s soft tissue is rapidly and progressively broken down.

“Most Vibrio vulnificus infections cause a mild gastroenteritis,” Dr. Todd Ellerin, director of infectious disease at South Shore Health in South Weymouth, Massachusetts, told ABC News, referring to a condition in which the intestines become inflamed. “On the severe end, you can get sepsis – a bloodstream infection – and necrotizing fasciitis.”

“The vast majority of people with severe Vibrio infection have another underlying problem – particularly liver disease,” he said.

The ‘brain-eating’ Naegleria folweri sounds like it comes straight from a horror film. It’s a parasite that typically infects people swimming in lakes and rivers, travelling through the nose and into the brain.

“Naegleria likes fresh water – lakes and ponds. Infection is even rarer than Vibrio, but the stakes are even higher,” Dr. Ellerin told ABC News.

“It travels up the nose and through the cribriform plate – a little sieve separating the nasal cavity and the brain,” Dr. Ellerin said. “When it reaches the brain, it causes Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis, or PAM for short, with seizures, headaches, personality changes and confusion. Most people with PAM have died – and unfortunately two-thirds of the cases are in otherwise healthy children.”

Where are these types of pathogens found?

“What’s really important is that both Vibrio and Naegleria are thermophilic – this means they like warmer waters,” Dr. Ellerin told ABC News. “For example, when temperatures reach greater than 20oC in the Chesapeake Bay, almost 100% of oyster beds have Vibrio.”

Vibrio vulnificus lives in salt water, or brackish water where fresh and salt water mix. “Entering brackish water with a cut puts you at risk of Vibrio infection,” Dr. Ellerin said.

Naegleria, by contrast, lives in freshwater such as lakes, rivers and hot springs.

What precautions can you take?

There are steps you can take to reduce the risk of waterborne illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

First, don’t swim in any kind of water if you have an open wound. Give the cut time to heal by waiting for it to scab over.

Second, shower after getting out of the water. Showering afterwards, especially with soap, can prevent infections. Parents should also check their children to make sure they haven’t developed new cuts or scratches.

Third, people who are immunocompromised or have liver disease are at higher risk of Vibrio infections, and need to be extra cautious.

“These people should be extremely careful when swimming, and not go into water with open wounds,” Dr. Ellerin said.

If you are unlucky enough to get scratched, rinse the wound thoroughly – irrigation is key – and apply some antibiotic ointment. If you fall ill and develop diarrhea after swimming, you should seek medical attention right away.

What should you look out for in the water?

Both recreational and drinking water can be contaminated with pathogens and cause illness, according to the CDC.

Bodies of water can be the hosts of a menagerie of microorganisms capable of causing serious trouble.

When you go for a swim, it’s good to always presume that there is a low-level risk so that you take the right precautions. Dirty, murky waters are red-flags.

If you are going to swim in a pool, check if you can see the drain – the water should be crystal clear, and drain covers should be secured and in good repair.

The CDC also recommend using pool testing strips. Check that the pH of the water is between 7.2-7.8, and the free chlorine concentration is at least 1 ppm in pools and 3 ppm in hot tubs or other types of spas. You can also check if your local pool has passed its health inspection at the Water Quality and Health Council’s website.

Why are we hearing about water-borne pathogens now?

Climate change is expected to affect fresh and marine water in a way that will increase peoples’ exposure to water-related illness, according to the U.S. Global Change Research Program – a federal program looking at the impacts of a changing global environment.

“Global warming is important for both of these pathogens,” Dr. Ellerin told ABC News. “We see more of these, not less, as water temperatures rise.”

“There may also be an increased prevalence of risk factors – more underlying liver disease, more people with weakened immune systems, and increased use of immunosuppressant medications,” he said.

The bottom line

“My message to swimmers and parents: recognize that both these infections are rare, and severe infection is even rarer,” said Dr. Ellerin. “But take sensible precautions to reduce your risk.”

Dr. Laith Alexander is an MB/PhD student at the University of Cambridge, U.K., working with ABC News Medical Unit.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Bureau of Prisons faces more scrutiny after the death of Jeffrey Epstein

U.S. NEWS Bureau of Prisons faces more scrutiny after the death of Jeffrey Epstein

Vesnaandjic/iStock(NEW YORK) — The death of accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein is just the latest in a string of incidents that have plagued the Federal Bureau of Prisons in the last year.

Last October, mobster Whitey Bulger was stabbed to death within hours of his arrival at the U.S. Penitentiary at Hazelton in West Virginia. Bulger’s death could have been prevented if the Hazelton penitentiary was properly staffed, a source told ABC News.

In January, the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York, experienced a power outage for a week that was dangerous for both staff and inmates, prompting protests and calls from Congress to fix the situation.

“We are now learning of serious irregularities at this facility that are deeply concerning and demand a thorough investigation,” Attorney General William Barr said on Monday. “We will get to the bottom of it and there will be accountability.”

Epstein, a convicted sex offender, was found unresponsive in his cell around 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, the Bureau of Prisons said. He was transported while in cardiac arrest at 6:39 a.m. to New York Downtown Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, according to sources.

His death came less than three weeks after he was found unresponsive in his cell at the federal prison in Lower Manhattan, with marks on his neck that appeared to be self-inflicted, sources told ABC News. He was placed on suicide watch following the July 23 incident but had been removed at the time of his death.

Two sources familiar with prison conditions at the Metropolitan Correctional Center told ABC News that staffing there is “deplorable” and it was “only a matter of time” before staff and inmates would get hurt. One source familiar with MCC conditions said more than 30 staff positions are still vacant.

Some have said the hiring freeze at the Department of Justice, which has since been lifted, and the non-competitive salaries have affected staffing at these prisons.

The two guards that were at the Special Housing Unit where Epstein was housed were both working overtime. One officer was working a mandatory overtime shift. The other officer was working his fifth overtime shift of the week.

The BOP is one of several federal agencies operating under leadership of an acting director.

The facility has played host to some of the most high-profile inmates in the country, like former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.

Jail protocols requiring routine checks on the well-being of MCC inmates like Epstein appear to have not been followed in the hours before the millionaire was found hanging in his cell, sources told ABC News.

Epstein should have been checked on by a correctional officer every 30 minutes, according to Bureau of Prison protocols. But sources told ABC News that protocol was not followed prior to Epstein’s death.

In recent weeks, the correctional officers’ union has complained of understaffing. Those gripes are now part of the investigation into whether the 30-minute checks were happening.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 12 Aug 2019

Special Operations Command orders comprehensive ethics review following recent scandals

Political News Special Operations Command orders comprehensive ethics review following recent scandals

coward_lion/iStock(WASHINGTON) — In the wake of recent scandals involving America’s most elite military troops, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command has ordered a comprehensive review of the culture and ethics of special operations forces.

“Recent incidents have called our culture and ethics into question and threaten the trust placed in us,” Gen. Richard Clarke, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) wrote in a memo sent to his command.

“The review will gather insights and observations from across our force and will draw upon the unique perspectives of leaders from internal and external entities,” he added.

Clarke said the review will look at all facets of special operations culture including, recruiting, selection, training, ethics education and how ethical failures are addressed.

Over the past two years elite special operations forces have been involved in high profile scandals involving alleged criminal behavior.

That includes two members of the elite Seal Team 6 and two special operations Marines who were charged in the 2017 death in Mali of Army Green Beret Staff Sergeant Logan Melgar.

The prosecution of Navy Special Warfare Operator Chief Edward “Eddie” Gallagher charged with killing a detainee in Iraq, Gallagher was found not guilty of murder and attempted murder charges, but guilty on charges of posing with the man’s corpse.

Army Green Beret Major Mathew Golsteyn is facing a court-martial for the death of an Afghan man whom he had detained.

Clarke wrote that the review would be concluded later this fall and encouraged forces under his command to be “open and candid.”

“This is about making us better,” he said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Special Operations Command orders comprehensive ethics review following recent scandals

Posted On 12 Aug 2019

Sarah Silverman claims she lost movie role due to blackface photo, slams “cancel culture” as “righteousness porn”

Entertainment News  Sarah Silverman claims she lost movie role due to blackface photo, slams "cancel culture" as "righteousness porn"


Mark Davis/Comedy Central(LOS ANGELES) —  When The Sarah Silverman Show was on Comedy Central back in 2007, the comedienne appeared in an infamous sketch in which she appeared in blackface — and she’s just revealed that it’s still costing her. 

During an interview on The Bill Simmons Podcast, Silverman explained, “I recently was going to do a movie, a sweet part. Then, at 11pm the night before, they fired me because they saw a picture of me in blackface from that episode.”

Silverman declined to explain which movie it was, but she revealed, “They hired someone else who is wonderful but who has never stuck their neck out. It was so disheartening.” 

She tells Simmons of the firing, “It just made me real, real sad, because I really kind of devoted my life to making it right.”

Then, as others who make their living being outspoken have done, Silverman slammed so-called “cancel culture.”

“I think it’s really scary and it’s a very odd thing that it’s invaded the left primarily and the right will mimic it,” she noted, calling it, “righteousness porn.”

“It’s like, if you’re not on board, if you say the wrong thing, if you had a tweet once, everyone is, like, throwing the first stone…It’s so odd. It’s a perversion,” she continued. “It’s really, ‘Look how righteous I am and now I’m going to press refresh all day long to see how many likes I get in my righteousness.'”

In 2015, she called the blackface sketch her most “regrettable joke,” but blamed the outrage about it today on a lack of context.

“I tweeted it when Twitter was new and the people who followed me watched that show and it was from that show,” she told The Wrap. “…Now it’s forever there and it looks…totally racist out of context and I regret that.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 12 Aug 2019

Epstein taken off suicide watch at lawyers’ urging, sources say; AG says co-conspirators ‘should not rest easy’

Political News Epstein taken off suicide watch at lawyers' urging, sources say; AG says co-conspirators 'should not rest easy'

Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead(NEW YORK) — Accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein was taken off suicide watch July 29, in part, at the urging of his defense attorneys, sources familiar with the decision told ABC News as Attorney General William Barr raised alarm Monday over what he described as “serious irregularities” in the prison’s handling of Epstein.

Before Epstein was formally removed from suicide watch, he had to undergo more than one psychiatric evaluation before prison officials made the move, according to sources.

The sources also told ABC News that while there are cameras on the cell block where Epstein had been held, it does not appear that cameras are trained on individual cells in the special housing unit. Therefore it’s unlikely there’s video showing Epstein’s death by suicide.

Under heightened pressure from lawmakers over Epstein’s death, Barr said Monday that Epstein’s alleged co-conspirators “should not rest easy” just because Epstein won’t have his day in court.

“Let me assure you that case will continue on against anyone who was complicit with Epstein,” Barr said in remarks to a law enforcement group in New Orleans on Monday. “Any co-conspirators should not rest easy. Victims deserve justice and will get it.”

Barr additionally said he was “angered” about what he described as the Manhattan Correctional Center’s “failure” to secure Epstein, and highlighted what he called “irregularities” in the MCC’s system that have already surfaced in the early stages of the DOJ investigations.

“We are now learning of serious irregularities at this facility that are deeply concerning and demand a thorough investigation,” Barr said. “We will get to the bottom of it, and there will be accountability.”

 The day after Epstein’s death in prison, Barr announced he had asked the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General to investigate the circumstances surrounding the matter, in addition to an FBI investigation that already launched. A source familiar with the investigation told ABC News on Sunday that Barr instructed FBI deputy director David Bowdich to update Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen every three hours on their investigation and that Rosen has been in constant communication with Barr.

“I was appalled to learn that Jeffrey Epstein was found dead early this morning from an apparent suicide while in federal custody,” Barr said in a statement Saturday. “Mr. Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered.”

Barr’s remarks follow several scathing rebukes of the Justice Department from lawmakers like Sen. Ben Sasse, who in a statement Saturday said that there was no excuse for Epstein to be approved to be taken off of suicide watch.

“Every single person in the Justice Department — from your Main Justice headquarters staff all the way to the night-shift jailer — knew that this man was a suicide risk, and that his dark secrets couldn’t be allowed to die with him,” Sasse, R-Neb., said. “Given Epstein’s previous attempted suicide, he should have been locked in a padded room under unbroken, 24/7, constant surveillance. Obviously, heads must roll.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 12 Aug 2019

Scaramucci breaks with Trump, no longer backs president’s re-election bid

Political News Scaramucci breaks with Trump, no longer backs president’s re-election bid

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Anthony Scaramucci, who served a record 11 days as the White House communications director, is now calling for President Donald Trump’s tenure to be limited to four years.

“He goes after individuals as the president of the United States on his Twitter account, which incites hate, which incites death threats,” Scaramucci said of the president on CNN’s New Day. “At some point the people in my party will have to look at all this stuff and stop being anesthetized to it and say ‘hey, what are we doing?'”

Previously a Trump loyalist, Scaramucci has recently been critical of the president’s controversial tweets attacking Democratic lawmakers and called Trump’s visit to an El Paso, Texas, hospital in the wake of a mass shooting “a catastrophe.”

Over the weekend, Axios reported that Scaramucci escalated his criticism by saying Republicans may need to find another candidate to top the ticket in 2020.

“Sound and reasonably minded men and women in the Republican party will say wait a minute, we can’t do this. He is giving people a license to hate,” Scaramucci said on CNN.

While Scaramucci said he didn’t support Trump’s reelection and called on Republicans to consider changing the ticket, he has yet to publicly name any potential replacements.

Trump targeted Scaramucci on Twitter over the weekend, writing that he was “totally incapable” of handling the position of White House communications director. “Anthony, who would do anything to come back in, should remember the only reason he is on TV, and it’s not for being the Mooch!” Trump added.

In a statement, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Scaramucci, “worked at the White House for less than two weeks and is certainly no expert on this president. This is all so self-serving on his part and the media plays right into it. It’s embarrassing to watch.”

Scaramucci explained in a series of tweets that he had previously stayed loyal to the president “based on private interactions and select policy alignment. But his increasingly divisive rhetoric — and damage it’s doing to fabric of our society — outweighs any short-term economic gain.”

“He started attacking me personally because I started calling him out even more loudly and directly,” Scaramucci added. “It only got attention because most of my fellow Republicans are too scared to stand up to him in public even though in private they’re saying the same things as me.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 12 Aug 2019

DOJ to craft bill to speed up executions for mass shooters, cop killers: AG Barr

Political News DOJ to craft bill to speed up executions for mass shooters, cop killers: AG Barr

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Department of Justice will craft a new bill aimed at speeding up death penalty proceedings for mass shooters and cop killers, Attorney General William Barr announced Monday.

“There will be a strict timetable for judicial proceedings that will allow the imposition of the death sentence without undue delay,” Barr said of the legislation during remarks to law enforcement in New Orleans. “Punishment must be swift.”

Barr said he expects the proposed legislation to be ready by the end of the Labor Day holiday.

President Donald Trump first made note of this directive to the Department of Justice last Monday in his statement on the El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, mass shootings.

“Today, I’m also directing the Department of Justice to propose legislation ensuring that those who commit hate crimes and mass murders face the death penalty, and that this capital punishment be delivered quickly, decisively, and without years of needless delay,” Trump said a week ago.

Opponents of the death penalty, however, have noted that there’s little evidence to suggest that quicker executions would amount to a deterrent in the cases of mass shooters — who often mount their attacks with plans to take their own life or to be killed by law enforcement at the scene.

The El Paso shooter, for instance, carried out his attack in Texas, where far more prisoners have been put to death by execution than any other state.

The announcement from Barr follows his move last month ordering the Bureau of Prisons to resume federal executions, beginning in December, which is expected to face significant legal hurdles.

Trump has long advocated for expanding use of the death penalty in the U.S. against cop killers and drug traffickers, even as several states have moved in recent years to ban or place a moratorium on executions. A majority of states, however, still allow for the death penalty.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 12 Aug 2019

Stampede in Houston mall after man issues public threat

U.S. NEWS Stampede in Houston mall after man issues public threat

ABC News(HOUSTON) — Chaos ensued at the Memorial City Mall in Houston, Texas, this weekend when a masked man jumped on a table in the food court and proclaimed he was going to kill himself, sending hundreds of panicked people fleeing.

Constable Ted Heap of the Houston Police Department said the incident took place Sunday around 3:15 p.m. and the suspect was a white male in his late teens or early twenties.

Heap told reporters the suspect “put on what appears to be a half mask … kind of a red mask, came down the escalators, came down to the food court, and then at a slow trot went through the food court. About halfway through the food court he jumped up on a table and declared that he was going to kill himself.”

“He had something in a bag,” Heap continued. “At that point he had thrown down the bag. Of course, at this point we had chaos. People started fleeing.”

The suspect, according to the police, allegedly made his way through the south entrance of the mall toward a block of apartment complexes.

A 16-year old boy and his mother were treated for ankle and leg injuries after the chaos, officials said.

Police indicated the suspect remains at large and could face possible charges of making terroristic threats.

“We don’t take this type of thing lightly,” said Houston Police Assistant Chief Sheryl Victorian.

“We had an explosive detection dog … come out and check the evidence that the suspect dropped on the scene. In the end there was no evidence of an explosive device … we have not determined exactly what that item is,” Victorian continued.

This is not the first incident of the public panicking over a possible threat in the aftermath of the El Paso and Dayton shootings.

Just last week thousands of people who were crowded into a packed Times Square fled in panic after a motorcycle backfired and caused fears over a possible active shooter.

Heap suggested that it was challenging for law enforcement to deal with these kinds of incidents.

“Our job is to keep people safe and to neutralize any threat. We’ve got uniforms from a lot of different agencies — federal agencies, state, local agencies, county, city — so there’s a lot of police officers involved here who have joined together to try to be sure that this is a safe scene,” Heap said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 12 Aug 2019

Robert De Niro among the stars sharpening their knives for the ‘Comedy Central Roast of Alec Baldwin’

Entertainment News  Robert De Niro among the stars sharpening their knives for the 'Comedy Central Roast of Alec Baldwin'


ABC/Heidi Gutman(LOS ANGELES) — Emmy-winner Alec Baldwin is going to be on the hot seat next month as the victim of a Comedy Central Roast, and now the network has revealed that Oscar-winner Robert De Niro will be among those out for Baldwin’s blood.

In a short video that shows Baldwin giving “generic responses” to the list of celebrity roasters, it was revealed that DeNiro — who often plays Robert Mueller to Baldwin’s Donald Trump in SNL opening sketches — would be one of the stars on hand to deal out the disses.

“Who?” Baldwin said when the Raging Bull star’s name flashed below him.

Other roasters include Will & Grace‘s Debra Messing, NBA star Blake Griffin, Caitlyn Jenner, Joel McHale, SNL‘s Chris Redd and of course, the Roast Master General, Jeff Ross. Other celebrities will be named later.

When we asked the Match Game host if his wife Hilaria would be among those roasting him, exclaimed, “No, no, no! No, don’t put that out there! Don’t broadcast that!”

Baldwin is already steeling himself for the evening.

“Hopefully I’m gonna have a big sweet and sour platter rather than just getting roasted, but there it is,” he said. “The word is ‘roast.’ It’s not massage. The Comedy Central Massage. It’s the Comedy Central Roast.” 

The Comedy Central Roast of Alec Baldwin will shoot at Los Angeles’ Saban Theatre on Saturday, Sept. 7; it airs Sunday, Sept. 15 at 10 p.m. Eastern.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 12 Aug 2019

Federal charges filed against friend of Dayton gunman

U.S. NEWS Federal charges filed against friend of Dayton gunman

DNY59/iStock(NEW YORK) — Federal charges have been filed against the friend of the gunman who killed nine people in Dayton, Ohio, last week.

The friend, who was not identified in a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice, allegedly lied on federal firearms forms.

Gunman Connor Betts, 24, was killed by law enforcement during the Aug. 4 shooting.

A press conference detailing the charges will take place Monday afternoon.

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Posted On 12 Aug 2019