FDA recalls tattoo inks due to possible bacteria contamination

The Food and Drug Administration(WASHINGTON) — Food and Drug Administration officials recalled several types of tattoo ink this week over worries that they could be contaminated with dangerous bacteria.

The Food and Drug Administration issued the warning to tattoo artists, ink retailers and anyone “considering a new tattoo,” saying the inks could cause serious infections or other injuries.

It said six inks manufactured by Scalp Aesthetics, Dynamic Color and Color Art could be contaminated with microorganisms that can be dangerous when injected into the skin.

“Tattoo inks contaminated with microorganisms can cause infections and lead to serious health injuries when injected into the skin during a tattooing procedure, since there is an increased risk of infection any time the skin barrier is broken,” the FDA said in a statement Wednesday.

The FDA said it became aware of the contaminated inks through routine surveys and inspections. It said consumers should ask their tattoo artists about the inks they’re using before getting any work done.

“Consumers who have experienced symptoms of infection or an injury after administration of a tattoo should consult their healthcare professional and inform their tattoo artist,” the statement said. “Ask the tattoo artist or studio about the tattoo inks they use and avoid the tattoo inks listed above, due to risk of infection and injury.”

FDA officials said they are working with manufacturers and retailers to remove the contaminated products from the market.

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Five more states sue Purdue Pharma over alleged role in opioid crisis

Moussa81/iStock(NEW YORK) — Five more states are suing OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma for its alleged role in the U.S. opioid crisis, the states’ attorneys general announced on Thursday.

West Virginia, Maryland, Kansas, Iowa and Wisconsin are filing lawsuits against the company which manufactures and markets the painkiller.

“The opioid epidemic was not inevitable,” Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said at a press conference announcing his case. “This epidemic has torn families apart. It has led to the overdose deaths of thousands of Wisconsinites. It has strained our foster care services. It has strained our health care system. It has strained our criminal justice system.”

In the lawsuit, Kaul added that the drug crisis also had a major impact on the state’s economy, writing that “between 1999 and 2015, Wisconsin has lost 45,200 workers due to opioids.”

Wisconsin is the only state of the five that is also suing Richard Sackler, the former president of Purdue Pharma, personally

In his lawsuit, Kaul wrote that as the former CEO of Purdue, Sackler “directed the deceptive sales and marketing practices within Purdue” and that he “knew and intended” that doctors and patients in the states would “rely on Purdue’s deceptive sales campaigns to prescribe and take Purdue opioids.”

The news comes one day after New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art announced it was following other cultural institutions in severing ties with the Sackler family, who have been prolific donors to the museum.

A representative for the Sackler family did not immediately return ABC News’ request for comment.

In a statement to ABC News on Thursday, Purdue said it “vigorously denies the allegations in the lawsuits filed on Thursday and will continue to defend itself against these misleading attacks.”

“These complaints are part of a continuing effort to try these cases in the court of public opinion rather than the justice system. The states cannot link the conduct alleged to the harm described, and so they have invented stunningly overbroad legal theories,” the statement said.

Purdue also noted that the state of North Dakota recently dismissed a lawsuit filed by that state’s attorney general with regard to the company’s alleged role in the opioid crisis.

“The recent decision by the North Dakota court to dismiss all the claims filed by the Attorney General of North Dakota against Purdue is a significant legal victory for the Company that has potential far-reaching ramifications for both the state lawsuits filed today and for the claims pending in the multi-district litigation (MDL),” Purdue said in its statement.

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World Health Organization releases new guidelines to reduce dementia risk

Daisy-Daisy/iStock(NEW YORK) — The World Health Organization has released new guidelines to help people reduce their risk of dementia.

The organization said in a news release Tuesday that dementia is not inevitable and pointed to regular exercise, quitting smoking, avoiding “harmful” use of alcohol and eating a healthy diet as ways for people to protect themselves from the illness, which the agency characterized as a “deterioration in cognitive function beyond what might be expected from normal ageing.”

The agency’s director-general cautioned that in the next three decades, the number of people with dementia is expected to triple.

“We need to do everything we can to reduce our risk of dementia,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “The scientific evidence gathered for these Guidelines confirm what we have suspected for some time, that what is good for our heart, is also good for our brain.”

The World Health Organization also recommended against using vitamin supplements to reduce risk.

In Tuesday’s news release, the agency said that these new guidelines were meant for health care providers “to advise patients on what they can do to help prevent cognitive decline and dementia.”

Dementia affects memory, thinking, orientation, comprehension, calculation, learning capacity, language and judgement. The illness is caused by damage to or loss of nerve cells in the brain, and there are different versions of it, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Dementia affects around 50 million people globally, the agency said, and there are nearly 10 million new cases every year.

In October, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, 88, the first woman ever to serve on the highest court in the land, announced in a public letter that she’d been diagnosed with dementia and was battling the early stages of what is probably Alzheimer’s disease.

She’d retired from the Supreme Court in 2006 to take care of her husband, John, who also suffered from Alzheimer’s.

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Most parents text and drive, but millennial parents have even riskier habits: Study

globalmoments/iStock(NEW YORK) — Cellphone use while driving is a major contributor to motor vehicle accidents across the United States, yet a new study finds that despite widespread public health warnings about distracted driving, the majority of parents are still using their phones on the road, with one group in particular facing the most risk: millennials.

As more millennials become parents, researchers from Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital were interested in seeing if their driving habits were any different from older parents given their use of technology.

The researchers found that even though 52 percent of millennial parents — ages 22 to 37 years in 2018 — and 57 percent of parents over 37 years old said it was “never” safe to text and drive, nearly two-thirds of all parents admitted to reading text messages while driving and over half said they sent text messages, too.

This compulsion to use our cellphones while driving comes from the modern-day need to “always be reachable,” the study’s lead author Dr. Regan Bergmark, of the Center for Surgery and Public Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, told ABC News.

But using your phone while driving, Bergmark said, hinders three key components of safe driving: attention, vision and hands on the wheel. She said that when these aren’t prioritized, drivers face the highest risk of getting in a crash.

Motor vehicle accidents consistently rank among the top causes of death across age groups.

The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, involved a nationally representative group of over 400 parents who took part in the Distracted Driving Survey, which asked them about their behaviors while driving, including whether they texted or used email, social media or maps. It also asked about their cellphone use with and without children in the car and the speeds they reached while carrying out these activities.

Although the majority of adults involved in the study indicated that they drove distractedly, millennial parents were most likely to be distracted by risky activities beyond texting, such as responding to emails and using maps.

About 16 percent of millennial parents had been in at least one crash in the year prior to taking the survey compared to 10 percent of older parents, but this difference was not significant, the study said.

Although the American Academy of Pediatrics routinely highlights the importance of using the correct car safety seat and seatbelt, discussions around the dangers of distracted driving don’t always make it to the doctor’s office. In fact, only 20 percent of adults surveyed said they remember their children’s pediatrician talking about these issues.

Bergmark said that doctors could put more effort into reminding parents not to text and drive, but she also pointed out that technology doesn’t always have to be a threat to safety — it can be the solution, too.

Many phones, for example, come with “Do Not Disturb” functions that can be turned on while driving. When turned on, this setting prevents notifications from lighting up the screen. There are also apps — some of which integrate with GPS systems — that reward drivers for safer driving habits.

Millennial parents, more than any other generation, are looking to the internet for everything, including advice on raising healthy and safe children. When it comes to driving, that advice likely includes putting the phone away — it can wait.

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High school senior loses 115 pounds by walking to school, changing diet

Courtesy Jim Watson(CANTON, Ohio) — Michael Watson, 18, battled his weight his entire life but decided to make a lasting change when he looked in a mirror his sophomore year of high school.

“When I looked in the mirror I was really ready to get it done and thought, ‘I can’t just fail anymore on my diet,’” Watson said. “I need to actually do this.”

Watson, now a high school senior in Canton, Ohio, started by walking to and from school every day, more than 40 minutes round trip.

He walked to school every day of his junior year, no matter whether it was hot, raining or snowing.

“When I took the bus to school, I’d want to sit by a kid and they’d say, ‘No, go sit somewhere else because I was so big,’” Watson recalled. “When I started walking, I didn’t even know what time the bus came and that was my motivation, ‘I have to walk.’”

Watson also changed his diet, working with his dad to learn how to count calories and then forgoing his normal fast food meals for salads, oatmeal and soup.

“It was extremely hard, especially at first,” said Watson, who also worked at a local Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant during his weight loss. “What motivated me was stepping on the scale.”

“I’d see that I was 290 [pounds] and say, ‘Let’s get to 280, come on Michael, you got this,’” he said.

Watson started at his highest weight of 325 pounds. He now weighs 210 pounds, achieving a 115 pound weight loss.

In addition to walking, Watson now lifts weights in a home gym he created in his family’s garage.

“I lost a lot of my insecurities when I lost all that weight,” he said. “You work for it and you get it, so it feels amazing for sure.”

Watson’s father, Jim Watson, said he notices his son walk around now with “more confidence,” allowing him to show his “funny and outgoing” personality to more people.

Watson’s accomplishment caught the attention of his classmates and teachers at McKinley Senior High School, from which he will graduate later this month.

“His story stuck with me,” said Terrance Jones, a family support specialist at McKinley who nominated Watson for the school’s “Senior Limelight” recognition.

“Michael is a young man who aspired to be able to be a better person for himself. We’re not talking about athletic accomplishments or academic accomplishments, this is a personal development success,” he said. “We need to pay more attention to personal development successes with students.”

Watson plans to find a full-time job after graduation, possibly in the food industry. He studied in his school’s culinary program during his weight loss and credits his teacher in the program with helping him learn more about healthier food choices and cooking.

“I hope I can be an inspiration to others,” Watson said, adding that he achieved his weight loss by reminding himself that “every day is a new day.”

“That’s what I said on my diet all the time because I’d mess up some days,” he said. “I’d tell myself, ‘Tomorrow is a new day. You’ve’ got to start over and eat the oatmeal in the morning.”

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25-year-old faces rare form of ALS that took her twin, but experimental drug offers hope

Courtesy Lori Hermstad(NEW YORK) — Jaci Hermstad is fighting for her life — against the same rare form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) that claimed the life of her twin sister, Alex.

This time could be different. A groundbreaking new experimental drug offers something the ALS community has never seen before: hope.

The drug is in a testing phase expected to take six to eight weeks. Jaci’s family is worried she will not make it that long.

Now, they are in a race against time to save her life and every day counts.

ALS is a neurodegenerative disorder that targets motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord. The Hermstad twins both developed a rapidly progressive form caused by a mutation in the FUS P525L gene.

“It is the closest thing to hell that any person could go through,” Jaci told Good Morning America. “You wake up one morning, you’re 25, you’re going to your dream job and the next thing you know … you are told that you have ALS.”

It was this past November when Jaci first noticed symptoms. She began experiencing pain in her rib cage and back, and walking long distances became difficult. When the avid horse rider struggled to lift her legs into the stirrups, she started to worry.

The daunting reality set in on Christmas Day. “I could go down the stairs, but I could not go up the stairs, and at that point I knew. I knew that I had ALS,” Hermstad said.

Unfortunately, the Hermstad family is no stranger to the horrific disease.

Jaci’s twin sister, Alex, was diagnosed with the FUS P525L mutation at age 11. She would have died in months, but chose to be on a ventilator to extend her life.

Alex died on Valentine’s Day 2011 at 17 years old. The loss was devastating.

“No one should ever have to watch their sibling pass away right in front of their eyes,” Jaci said.

Jaci never thought she, too, would receive the same diagnosis and she worried about possibly passing the gene to her own future children.

Exactly eight years since Alex died, Jaci was officially diagnosed with the same aggressive form of ALS that took her twin.

The FUS P525L mutation is extremely rare, according to Dr. Neil Shneider, who runs the ALS clinic at Columbia University. He knows no one else aside from the Hermstad twins with this particular mutation, though he believes there are others out there.

Doctors began furiously working to develop an experimental drug for Jaci’s exact gene mutation, with Shneider leading the research.

“It is an exciting time in ALS research, where successes in other motor neuron diseases has encouraged us to make this desperate effort on Jaci’s behalf. I’m not sure that we’ll succeed, but I’m hopeful,” Shneider told GMA.

On Wednesday, May 8, the drug was approved by the FDA — an answered prayer for the family. Now, it has moved to testing, which could take six to eight weeks.

The Hermstads are desperate to find a way to shorten the process and get Jaci the drug sooner. They believe it will be too late if not.

“We know what her symptoms were like six weeks ago from now; we can’t imagine what her symptoms will be like six weeks from now, so it is crucial that this testing process gets minimized,” Lori Hermstad, Jaci’s mother, said.

Jaci’s symptoms are progressing extremely fast. She now struggles with speaking and breathing.

“Any day that you wake up and you’re able to talk, that you’re able to breathe, that you’re able to you know, do the normal things, anything that is normal, brushing your teeth is a blessing, and you thank God for the days that you can do those things,” Jaci said.

As devastating as the diagnosis is, the Hermstad family is not giving up.

“There’s just no choice, you do what you have to do as a parent, and you will exhaust every last thing until it is exhausted, and that’s what you do,” Lori told GMA.

They are hoping people of influence will unite and help Jaci access treatment sooner, despite the standard testings and protocols.

The process of developing and obtaining the drug costs $700,000. The Hermstads have worked hard to fundraise, but they still need $500,000. A GoFundMe is set up in support. They also created a Facebook page with more information.

“Without some intervention, the outcome of her disease is certain,” Shneider told “GMA.” “But we are in uncharted waters here, and the question of whether this experimental therapy can extend Jaci’s life remains to be answered.”

Still, there is hope that this drug could save Jaci and others in the future.

“Alex didn’t have hope like I do. I feel like I was taken down this journey so that I can be Alex’s voice in this, and I can be the voice of everyone who wasn’t able to have these opportunities and for all of us who, in the future, so we will have hope and it will be the cure” Jaci said.

Knowing there is a possibility that she could be cured keeps her waking up in the morning. Her family, community, friends, and animals play a huge role in reminding her of the good and she appreciates the time she spends with them.

“Life is too short, never be afraid to go after your dreams, never be afraid to something that you love, do the things that make you happy, run with those things, because you don’t know what’s around the corner or when your last day is,” Jaci said.

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Prince William launches new mental health campaign to tackle men’s well-being in grassroots soccer

Chris Jackson – WPA Pool /Getty Images(LONDON) — Prince William took a break from playing uncle Wednesday to launch a new mental health initiative alongside the U.K.’s soccer governing body, in order to improve the national conversation around men’s well-being in conjunction with International Mental Health Awareness Week.

The Heads Up initiative sees William’s Heads Together charity partner up with the U.K.’s Football Association to “generate the biggest ever conversation around mental health.”

The prince started Heads Up three years ago with the Duchess of Cambridge and the Dukes and Duchess of Sussex.

Addressing assembled journalists at London’s Wembley Stadium, William spoke passionately about the mental health crisis affecting the U.K. The fact that suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under the age of 45 is evidence of why things need to change, he said.

“When it comes to our mental health, we — and by we, I mean men in particular — often have nothing to say at all,” William told a packed newsroom. “And when we know we need help, we don’t even know where to start. Just like physical health, we all have mental health. The consequences of this silence, confusion, stigma, and even shame have reached a crisis point in the U.K.”

Tackling mental health was also necessary to help the next generation, he said, so that people can “play their full role as parents.”

The campaign will encourage soccer fans and players alike to talk openly about their mental health, sharing their strategies and experiences to help other people who are struggling. The aim of the Heads Up campaign is to remove the stigma around men talking about their feelings, and help “drive a national conversation,” William said. The charity will advertise extensively throughout the next soccer season in the U.K., which starts in August this year.

Meanwhile it’s back to business as usual for the royals, just a day after the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited the newest addition to the family, baby Archie, at Frogmore Cottage in Windsor.

“William and Kate made their first visit to see their new nephew Archie on Tuesday,” ABC News’ Royal contributor Victoria Murphy reported.

“They stopped by Frogmore Cottage after Harry returned from a day of engagements in Oxford,” Murphy said. “It’s understood just the two of them went — so George, Charlotte and Louis haven’t met their cousin yet, but that will of course happen at some point. William and Kate previously said they were looking forward to seeing him so I’m sure that it was lovely for them all.”

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Woman’s foster dog has a part-time job learning to sniff out cancer

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Anna Sharova is the foster mom of a 2-year-old German Shepherd named Ivey who, like any other dog, loves to play, go on walks and lounge around the house.

The rest of the time, though, Ivey is on the job at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

When she’s there, Ivey is training to sniff out cancer.

Researchers working with Ivey and other dogs at the center ultimately hope to perfect an electronic nose that will be able to detect stage-one ovarian cancer, a type of cancer that the American Cancer Society estimates will affect over 22,000 women in 2019.

“My dream is the dogs confirm that the electronic nose is working and we get that out into hospitals so that thousands of women can be screened,” Dr. Cindy Otto, the Working Dog Center’s executive director, told ABC News’ Good Morning America.

Researchers train dogs like Ivey by exposing them to different odors. Once dogs are through the training, researchers take blood plasma from real cancer patients and place them into one of eight cannisters on a wheel, training the dogs to sniff and detect the cancer.

Otto said that while it’s possible for a pet to sense certain cancers in their owner, a machine is more reliable. That’s why they are working to perfect the electronic nose.

“If we can help recognize [ovarian] cancer early, we will save lives,” said Otto.

A dog’s sense of smell has been estimated to be 10,000 to 100,000 times more sensitive than humans, according to ABC News. Dr. Jennifer Ashton, who explained that dogs are able to detect newly discovered biomarkers of cancer in blood and urine.

But while dogs are doing this groundbreaking work, don’t expect to see dogs in your doctor’s office anytime soon. The goal of the research is to identify the cancer compounds that dogs can smell — which current technology can’t detect — and then creating new technology around that, Ashton said. There are no screening tests and no obvious symptoms for ovarian cancer, so it is usually diagnosed late.

While Ivey and the dogs at Penn Vet Working Dog Center are working to detect ovarian cancer, dogs elsewhere are involved in research projects for other types of cancer. A study presented at a biochemistry conference last month, for example, showed that beagles could detect lung cancer through blood samples with 96 percent accuracy, according to Ashton.

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What to know about yacon syrup, the natural sweetener Daphne Oz is ‘obsessed with’

Amawasri/iStock(NEW YORK) — Ask anyone about natural sweeteners and you’ll hear words like honey, monkfruit, stevia, molasses and maple syrup.

There is another, more under-the-radar sweetener that you may start hearing more about, though. It’s called yacon syrup and it comes with the approval of famous foodie Daphne Oz, who described it as “an ingredient we’re going to see a lot more of” on a recent episode of her “Mom Brain” podcast.

“It is a sweetener, but it’s also a prebiotic,” said Oz, who called herself “obsessed with it” and noted it is high in fiber.

“Basically, it fuels your gut’s ability — and the bacteria in your guts ability — to thrive, which we know is so important for overall gut health,” she said. She added that yacon syrup “has a really low glycemic sugar, which means it doesn’t spike your blood sugar.”

Oz, who is pregnant with her fourth child, discussed yacon syrup in the context of it being an ingredient in one of her favorite snack bars to eat while on the go.

The syrup is also available in the raw. It comes from yacon, a sweet, root-like vegetable that grows in the shape of a potato.

The yacon plant is native to the Andes Mountains region of South America. ABC News’ Good Morning America asked Cynthia Sass, RD, CSSD, a New York City and Los Angeles-based performance nutritionist, to get to the root of yacon syrup and answer some questions.

Here are her answers to GMA’s top five questions about yacon syrup, in her own words:

1. What are the benefits of yacon syrup?

One benefit is that making the syrup from juice extracted from the [yacon] plant’s roots doesn’t require chemicals. The syrup provides soluble fibers, which have been shown to help feed beneficial bacteria in the gut tied to immunity, anti-inflammation, mood and possibly weight loss.

Also, because a portion of the syrup isn’t digested, fewer calories are absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream. For this reason, it provides about a third of the calories as the same portion of sugar.

The fiber in yacon syrup has also been shown to reduce appetite-stimulating hormones. And it provides some antioxidants and potassium.

2. Is it a better alternative to other natural sweeteners?

Whether it’s a better alternative really depends on how your body reacts to it.

In one weight loss study, nearly 30% of the women dropped out because of the syrup’s unpleasant side effects, which may include flatulence, diarrhea, nausea and digestive discomfort. People with IBS are likely more prone to these effects.

However, yacon syrup has been shown to help relieve constipation. It may also help reduce blood sugar, insulin resistance, and “bad” LDL cholesterol, but these outcomes haven’t been well studied. In animal research it also increased the concentration of minerals in bones.

3. What should consumers look for when purchasing yacon syrup?

It should not contain any additional ingredients.

4. Why is yacon syrup a lesser-known natural sweetener?

I have been asked about yacon syrup for years. It has long been a staple in health food stores.

It is probably [less well-known] because the research is very limited, and it hasn’t been heavily promoted or marketed.

5. Is yacon syrup worth a try?

The potential digestive side effects are one big deterrent. However, I think it’s worth a try.

If you do decide to use yacon syrup I would recommend limiting it to no more than two teaspoons daily. Also, don’t introduce any other new foods, supplements, or ingredients at the same time so you can identify if the syrup itself is a trigger of digestive upset.

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Boy with spina bifida walks for first time at preschool graduation

Courtesy Megan Mompher(PROSPECT, Ohio) — A 5-year-old who was born with spina bifida surprised his family and friends when he walked across the stage at his graduation ceremony last week.

Blake Mompher’s big moment was captured on video by his parents and shared on Facebook.

“As soon as I saw him walk out, I lost it,” mom of four Megan Mompher, of Prospect, Ohio, told ABC News’ Good Morning America. “Because of everything he’s gone through — he’s had seven surgeries in two and a half months. Poor kid has gone through the ringer and as his mom watching him go through it was heart-wrenching. So in three weeks watching him be able to [walk], I’ve never been more proud.”

Mompher said she learned Blake had spina bifida at her 20-week ultrasound. Blake has always used a wheelchair, but over the last three weeks, he’s been practicing taking steps with a walker.

“I had set this goal for him to walk at the beginning of this school year,” Mompher said. “It’s always been a struggle for him. Back in November, he had a major surgery — kind of like a bladder reconstruction. I didn’t think we were going to be able to do it because of setbacks with the surgery.”

After his surgery, Blake persevered and worked hard to reach his goal of walking.

And on May 11, Blake’s family cried happy tears as he walked during the Crosswood Preschool graduation in Marion, Ohio.

“A couple family members knew. My mother didn’t know — she’s fighting cancer. It’s been a rough road so to have her see, it was pretty cool,” Mompher said. “None of his classmates knew either. Some of them were just mouths wide-open.”

“We were just blown away that he came out smiling,” Mompher added. “He was so proud.”

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