Category: RTM News Reel Written by Brittany Tom, theGrio
Robin Roberts returned to the set of Good Morning America yesterday morning for the first time since her bone marrow transplant this past September.
The popular television host was diagnosed last year with MDS (myelodysplastic syndrome), a rare blood disorder that affects bone marrow. Roberts discovered that her sister was a perfect bone marrow match during the course of her treatment.
“What a thrill to be back at GMA’s Times Square studio this morning and see the best folks in the world, my GMA family,” Roberts announced.
Although she did not resume her usual duties as a morning co-host that day, she returned to the studio before the show began to start the slow process of transitioning back to work, which included testing out the bright studio lights, getting used to wearing makeup again and assessing the risk of infection on set.
While the GMA host’s medical journey has given hope and inspiration to many viewers, her story also sheds light on another important issue in the medical community that often goes overlooked — the lack of African-American donors in the bone marrow registry.
“It’s bad enough to get a disease, but it’s even worse when you’re not able get the best available treatment out there [if you can't find a marrow match],” says Jim Fox, director of communications at the New York Blood Center.
Fox recently wrote an article for New York’s Daily News that details his sister-in-law’s battle with leukemia.
Like Roberts, Fox’s sister-in-law was also lucky that one of her relatives was a match for her.
But the odds of having a relative be a perfect match are quite low. Fox says there is only a roughly 30 percent chance that a relative will be a bone marrow match.
That is when these desperate patients turn to the bone marrow registry.
Minorities in need of bone marrow transplants currently have the lowest chance of finding a donor within the registry according to Fox. Because DNA is used to make bone marrow matches, a person is more likely to find a match within the same racial or ethnic group.
African-American donors only comprise of seven percent of the nation’s 10 million registered bone marrow donors. Black patients also only have an estimated 66 percent likelihood of finding a willing and able donor on the registry, according to Be The Match Registry.
Last Updated on Monday, 28 January 2013 02:12
Category: RTM News Reel Written by Emily Jane Fox, CNN
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)
You might want to think twice before whipping out your credit card. As of Sunday, stores in most states could start charging you a "checkout fee" when you pay for something with plastic.
The new fees stem from a multi-billion dollar settlement announced in July between credit card issuers and millions of merchants.
Visa (V, Fortune 500), MasterCard (MA, Fortune 500) and nine major banks agreed to a $7.25 billion deal to settle charges that they were fixing credit card processing fees. As part of the settlement, credit card issuers said they would reduce these "swipe fees" -- fees paid by merchants to issuers when cards are used -- but only for eight months.
In addition, the settlement also gave retailers the option to tack on a surcharge if a customer uses a credit card. The retailer can only charge enough to cover the processing costs, which is about 1.5% to 3% of the total purchase, according to watchdog group Consumer Action.
This fee doesn't apply to purchases made using debit cards. And it will still be illegal to charge the new fee in 10 states, including New York, California and Texas.
Many big players in the retail industry have been up in arms about the settlement. Stores from the nation's largest retailer down to small businesses have lamented the agreement, claiming that it transferred the wrongdoings of credit card issuers to the consumer.
In November, the National Retail Federation and more than a dozen retailers asked a judge to reject the proposed settlement. In a brief submitted to a U.S. District Court judge in Brooklyn, N.Y., the trade organization wrote that the new fees threaten a merchant's ability to keep prices low for customers.
Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500), Macy's (M, Fortune 500), JCPenney (JCP, Fortune 500), Limited Brands (LTD, Fortune 500), Gap Inc (GPS, Fortune 500). and The Neiman Marcus Group were among those who joined the NRF in claiming that "raising consumer prices by adding an 'interchange tax' is no remedy for Visa's and MasterCard's continuing monopoly abuse."
In a separate statement, Wal-Mart said that it would cost consumers "tens of billions of dollars each year." Target (TGT, Fortune 500) called the agreement "bad for both retailers and consumers."
Merchants have a choice as to whether to implement the surcharge, but it poses quite a dilemma for them: Either get stuck footing the bill for the swipe fees, or risk transferring the cost to customers in an already competitive environment.
Last summer, Target said it had no interest in charging customers who use credit cards more "in order to allow Visa and MasterCard to continue charging unfair fees."
Smaller merchants echoed these concerns over the deal, saying it doesn't go far enough.
MasterCard said it doesn't expect most merchants to put the surcharge into effect, since stores won't want to drive away business.
"We anticipate that they will not impose checkout fees, particularly because the value merchants derive from card acceptance far exceeds their costs," the credit card company said in a statement.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 January 2013 12:18
Category: RTM News Reel Written by Maggie Fox, nbcnews
An already bad flu season is causing more havoc across the United States, federal health officials said Friday, and it’s hitting the elderly hardest. But 29 children also have died from influenza, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.
The early flu season continues to worsen across the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. Flu has killed 29 children this year so far.
The nation is only about halfway through this severe season, said CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden, and the worst outcomes are likely to get even worse as those who catch the flu develop complications.
"We expect to see both the number and rates of hospitalization and deaths to rise further," Frieden said.
CDC says 30 states have high influenza activity, up from 24 last week. More than 5,000 people have been sick enough to be hospitalized.
“Forty-eight states reported widespread geographic influenza activity,” CDC says in its weekly influenza report. Widespread activity includes states with moderate and low activity.
Flu is still increasing in some areas, particularly in the West, but overall visits to doctors for flu-like illness appear to be decreasing, Frieden added.
“Between October 1, 2012 and January 12, 2013, 5,249 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations were reported. This is a rate of 18.8 per 100,000 population,” the CDC says. “More than 40 percent of hospitalized children had no identified underlying medical conditions.”
Influenza is notoriously hard to predict, and the season varies a lot from year to year in its severity. The U.S. has had two fairly mild flu seasons in a row, and people were surprised when the virus started sickening people early this year.
As often happens, the elderly are most at risk. Flu kills anywhere between 3,000 and 49,000 people a year — it varies a lot, the CDC says — and people over 65 are far more likely to die from flu than any other age group. People need to take care to protect the elderly, CDC advises.
So far this year, the rate of hospitalization for flu among those older than 65 has climbed to 82 per 100,000 people — a high rate comparable to recent severe seasons, CDC experts said.
“If you’re around grandma a lot, make sure you are vaccinated,” said CDC spokesman Tom Skinner. “Health care workers need to ensure they are vaccinated.”
The CDC calculates flu season severity based on historical statistics and on a week-by-week basis. During the second week of January, 8.3 percent of all deaths that were reported were from influenza and pneumonia. That's higher than the 7.3 percent normally considered an epidemic for that week.
Deaths also vary a lot. Last year, 34 children died from flu, but in the 2010-2011 flu season 122 died, and when the H1N1 swine flu pandemic hit in 2009-2010, it killed 282 U.S. children.
The early season has caused a run on flu vaccines, and now some areas report shortages. The good news, the CDC says, is that flu vaccine makers have been able to squeeze out 10 million more doses of the flu vaccine than expected, for a total of 145 million doses. As of the week ending Jan. 11, more than 129 million doses had been distributed.
“Providers can get more flu vaccine,” Skinner said. “We’ll direct them to the availability tracking system.”
About a million doses of flu vaccine are distributed every day, health experts said.
Seven different companies make flu vaccine, and the U.S. relies on these private drug companies to help predict which flu strains to put in it and how many doses to make. This year the vaccine protects against the three most common strains of influenza.
It’s made using old and tricky technology — most flu vaccine is grown in chicken eggs, a process that takes months and that is notoriously unpredictable in terms of just how many doses it will provide. Next year some new vaccines will be available — including some that protect against four strains of flu, and a new, next-generation formula made using caterpillar cells and DNA.
The early and harsh season has also raised demand for the antiviral drugs that can treat flu. There are two — Tamiflu, which comes in a capsule or syrup for kids, and Relenza, an inhaled powder. If people take them as soon as symptoms start, these drugs can reduce the severity of infection and perhaps cut off a few days of illness.
Frieden urged high-risk patients, including children, the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions to seek antivirals at the first sign of illness.
Roche, the company that makes Tamiflu, says it’s releasing more of the drug, with the permission of the Food and Drug Administration.
“To ensure continuous supply of Tamiflu (oseltamivir phosphate), Genentech has worked with the FDA to release our own reserve stock of Tamiflu,” the company said in a statement.
The CDC also notes that only 29 percent of people tested for flu-like illness actually have influenza — the rest have some other infection. There are exceptions — in the Midwest region, more than half of those showing up at clinics actually have influenza. Many viruses look like flu, and a strain of stomach virus called norovirus is also circulating.
The bottom line, Frieden said, is that people need to take this flu season seriously, seek vaccines and antivirals and do their best to prevent infection.
"Even when you're halfway through the season, that means that you've got half of the season left," he said.
Last Updated on Monday, 21 January 2013 10:22
Category: RTM News Reel Written by Steve Almasy, CNN
(CNN) -- The club is crowded. Folks are drinking, listening to music, having a good time. Then the fire alarm goes off.
Most people will probably ignore it, but know this: If there really is a fire, you don't have very long to get out.
"In most nightclub fires you only have a few minutes to find a way out," Glenn Corbett, an associate professor of fire sciences at John Jay College, said Sunday. "In Rhode Island, it was 90 seconds."
He's referring to the 2003 incident in which 100 people died when fire broke out at a small nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island. That time, some survivors escaped by breaking out windows, while others found additional doors besides the main entrance, he said.
Every second really does matter in a crisis, said a division manger for building and life safety codes with the National Fire Protection Association.
"An extra 10 seconds is a lot of time," Robert Solomon said. "Your first thought should be to leave."
Fires in places where people publicly get together are rare but often deadly. According to the NFPA, there were almost 5,000 such fires from 2000 to 2004, with an average of one death and 52 injuries per incident. The number of fires is less than 1% of all structure fires reported by fire departments for that same five-year period.
But the organization said on its website: "Fires in assembly occupancies have shown to be some of the most deadly when the proper features, systems and construction materials were not present."
Corbett said two things are key to making it out of a fire or other dangerous situations alive -- preparation and quick reaction.
Here's what you should do when you get to a nightclub or any other public venue:
• Identify all the exits. In most fires, people try to get out the same way they came in. Go ahead and take a lap around the club and see where other doors are. Check out exits firsthand and see what kind of doors they have. Corbett said it may be difficult to get out a dead-bolt door, or some doors might be blocked by equipment or boxes. If you can, see if a door will stay open or can be propped open, Solomon said.
• Take a look up for sprinkler heads. After the Rhode Island fire, changes in fire codes focused on the need for fire suppression systems. If there isn't one, be wary. "The sprinkler is the best tool available to avoid disasters," Corbett said. Such systems are not always easy to see or identify, Solomon said.
• Is it too crowded? If it feels too crowded, then it is, and you should avoid it, Corbett said. He also said you can call the fire department, which some people might consider overreacting -- but the fire department will deal with hazards.
• Identify the staff members and figure out if there are enough of them for the size of the crowd, Solomon said. "See if you can get any feel or flavor for staffing," he said. "See what they are wearing." Each venue should have crowd managers, whose jobs are to take care of people in emergencies. "They should help shepherd people out."
• Check to see if the staff is monitoring the entry points, Corbett said. Did the people at the door keep a count of everyone coming in? That's a good sign they have your safety in mind.
• If it appears the show involves indoor fireworks, Solomon said he would consider leaving. "There are safe ways to have indoor pyrotechnics but it certainly would make me raise my awareness."
If disaster does strike, it is vital to avoid hesitation.
• If a building alarm goes off, you need to stop what you are doing and get out. Don't worry about being able to get back in or the weather, the experts said.
• Tell everyone in your group which way to go, and remember, most people are going to head for the front door. The danger is that someone will fall and people will tumble over each other. "Then that's it," Corbett said. "That's the point of knowing the other ways out." Even if people are still moving it's likely that because of the mass of people, it will take more time to get out the main entrance.
• Exit signs are subject to code in the United States, Solomon said, and they are spelled out. In other countries, they may be a diagram of a person running, he said.
• Don't try to put out the fire, Solomon said. Get out and leave the emergency response to the crowd managers on staff. That applies even if a fire extinguisher is nearby. The staff should be trained to know where those are, and you need to head for an exit.
• If the smoke gets thick, you need to duck down to the clean air. If you can't see, head straight until you get to a wall and then follow it, Corbett said. Keep a hand up to find a window, he said. Break a window out if you have to escape that way. Solomon recognized that dropping down could be a tough decision because you don't want to put yourself in peril in the crowd rush.
• Once you are out, go to a prearranged meeting point for your group, like your car or a public transit stop.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 January 2013 12:04
Category: RTM News Reel Written by Mike Ahlers, CNN
Washington (CNN) -- Airport body scanners that produce graphic images of travelers' bodies will be removed from checkpoints by June, the Transportation Security Administration says, ending what critics called "virtual strip searches."
Passengers will continue to pass through machines that display a generic outline of the human body, raising fewer privacy concerns.
The TSA move came after Rapiscan, the manufacturer of the 174 so-called "backscatter" machines, acknowledged it could not meet a congressional-ordered deadline to install privacy software on the machines.
"It is big news," said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. "It removes the concern that people are being viewed naked by the TSA screener."
In 2004 and 2005, the TSA at first dismissed privacy concerns, then sought to address them by placing TSA officers viewing the scanner imagery in remote locations, away from the passenger being screened. They also gave passengers the right to an alternative screening -- a pat down.
But those solutions failed to appease privacy groups and some members of Congress, who felt both alternatives could be abused.
Ultimately, a problem caused by technology was solved by technology. Security companies developed privacy software, called Automated Target Recognition (ATR) software.
But while manufacturers of the less-intrusive "millimeter wave" machines found ways to use ATR software, backscatter machines have not.
This week, the TSA announced it is ending its contract with Rapiscan "due to its inability to deploy non-imaging ATR software."
"By June 2013 travelers will only see machines which have ATR that allow for faster throughput. This means faster lanes for the traveler and enhanced security," the TSA said in a statement.
The TSA could allow backscatter machines in the future if the company develops the required software, the TSA said.
Currently, the TSA uses the 174 backscatter machines in 30 airports, and has another 76 units in storage. It uses millimeter wave machines in 170 airports.
The decision to remove the backscatter machine will make moot, at least temporarily, travelers' concerns about the health effects of the machines. Backscatter machines use X-rays, while millimeter wave machines use radio waves.
The TSA has long maintained both machines are safe, but recently signed an agreement with the National Academy of Sciences to study the scanners. The study will continue even though the machines are being pulled, the TSA said, because they could be reintroduced in the future.
Last Updated on Monday, 21 January 2013 08:34
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