What is pancreatitis: symptoms, causes, and treatment

Earlier this week, Travis Barker, the longtime Blink-182 drummer and husband to Kourtney Kardashian, was carried out of his Los Angeles mansion on a stretcher to a local hospital after being diagnosed with pancreatitis. Barker’s pancreas became inflamed following a colonoscopy procedure.

The musician’s health scare has left many wondering what pancreatitis is and how to treat it. According to the Mayo Clinic, pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas, a flat gland behind the stomach in the upper abdomen, is inflamed. The pancreas is vital for the body to process sugar through digestion and hormones. The pancreas becomes inflamed when these digestive fluids attack the organ instead of regulating the body’s blood sugar levels. 

Acute pancreatitis is a mild form of the condition that occurs suddenly and only for a short time. However, chronic pancreatitis is long-lasting and can lead to death without proper medical attention. Chronic may appear randomly over the course of many years while causing severe discomfort to the body. 

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms for individuals differ based on the type of pancreatitis. The acute version causes pain in the upper abdominal, abdominal pain throughout the back, tenderness when touching the abdomen, fever, rapid pulse, nausea, and vomiting. 

However, chronic pancreatitis is more life-threatening and can cause more severe damage to the body. Common symptoms include upper abdominal pain, abdominal pain that increases after digestion, unexplained weight loss, and oily, smelly stools, according to Mayo Clinic. It is recommended that individuals make an appointment with their doctor for acute or chronic abdominal pain and seek immediate attention if the pain caused by pancreatitis makes it impossible to sit or stand still.

What are the causes?

When digestive enzymes are triggered, pancreatitis occurs from irritated cells in the pancreas, causing the organ to inflame. Some habits and conditions that cause pancreatitis include alcoholism, abdominal injury, obesity, high levels of triglyceride in the blood, and gallstones. Moreover, untreated acute pancreatitis may become chronic and lead to digestion problems and diabetes. 

Other factors such as a family history of pancreatitis, excessive cigarette usage, and alcohol consumption may increase an individual’s risk of pancreatitis. 

How do you treat it? 

Depending on an individual’s condition, medical professionals will ovulate and treat the underlining cause of pancreatitis differently in some cases. However, some early treatments include slimming down your daily diet to allow your body to recover. Doctors may also prescribe patients suffering from pancreatitis pain medication if the condition is severe. If an individual is admitted to a hospital, intravenous (IV) fluids will be injected through a vein in the arm to avoid dehydration until the pancreas recovers.

AstraZeneca gets EU backing for targeted breast cancer therapies

AstraZeneca said on Monday two of its existing therapies were recommended for treating patients with some forms of high-risk breast cancers in the European Union, in a boost to the company’s oncology portfolio.

Lynparza, a cancer drug developed jointly with U.S.-based Merck, was backed for standalone use or in combination with endocrine therapy in adults with a form of genetically mutated early-stage breast cancer.

The drug, which has received a similar recommendation in the United States in March, is a key asset for AstraZeneca. It was recommended in patients with low-to-normal levels of a protein known as HER2 that is the target of several new therapies.

Enhertu, developed jointly with Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo, was the other drug that was endorsed by the European Medicines Agency for treating an aggressive form of breast cancer characterized by a high rate of HER2.

Enhertu is seen as a major growth driver for AstraZeneca, with some analysts expecting peaks sales of $10 billion. The drug is also expected to be cleared for patients with low levels of HER2 this month after the recent success of a trial.

COVID-19 may increase risk of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke: study

A new Danish study found COVID-19 outpatients had a higher risk of being diagnosed with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, stroke and bleeding into the brain when compared with COVID-19 negative patients, but most neurological disorders were not more frequent after COVID-19 than after other respiratory infections, according to a recent study published in Frontiers in Neurology this June.  

“More than two years after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the precise nature and evolution of the effects of COVID-19 on neurological disorders remained uncharacterized,” said lead author Dr. Pardis Zarifkar, member of the Department of Neurology at Rigshospitalet hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark.  

“Previous studies have established an association with neurological syndromes, but until now it is unknown whether COVID-19 also influences the incidence of specific neurological diseases and whether it differs from other respiratory infections.” 

The study, which was recently presented at the 8th European Academy of Neurology Congress, found 43,375 individuals tested positive for COVID-19 while 876,356 individuals tested negative for the disease out of a total of 919,731 participants. 

The study used electronic health records that covered approximately 50% of Denmark’s population, which has an estimated population of 3 million. 

The study analyzed those who tested positive for COVID-19 and bacterial pneumonia in hospital-based facilities between February 2020 and November 2021, as well as reviewed influenza patients from the corresponding pre-pandemic period between February 2018 and November 2019. 

Out of the 43,375 patients who tested positive for COVID-19, 35,362 were outpatients while 8,013 were hospitalized.  

The researchers found the outpatients who tested positive for COVID-19 had a 3.5 times the risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, 2.6 times increased risk with Parkinson’s disease, 2.7 times increased risk with ischemic stroke and 4.8 times increased risk with intracerebral hemorrhage, which is bleeding in the brain.  

But when the researchers compared the relative risk of neurological disorders with other respiratory illnesses, such as influenza, the increased risk of most neurological diseases was not higher in COVID-19-positive patients compared to those diagnosed with other respiratory illnesses – with one exception.  

The researchers found the risk for ischemic stroke increased among COVID-19 hospitalized patients when compared to inpatients with influenza. 

The study was limited because it did not account for potential confounding variables like socioeconomic, lifestyle, pre-existing comorbidities and length of hospitalization. 

Although the study included a large population, it was only able to review a subset of the country’s absolute number of tested individuals as only COVID-19 tests performed in the hospital facilities are registered in the Danish electronic health record system that the study used to analyze the records. 

“While the risk of ischemic stroke was increased with COVID-19 compared to influenza, reassuringly, most neurological disorders do not appear to be more frequent after COVID-19 than after influenza or community-acquired bacterial pneumonia,” the researchers concluded.  

“Frequencies of multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, Guillain-Barré syndrome and narcolepsy did not differ after COVID-19, influenza and bacterial pneumonia,” the study added.  

“These findings will help to inform our understanding of the long-term effect of COVID-19 on the body and the role that infections play in neurodegenerative diseases and stroke,” Zarifkar said. 

World’s mental health care needs urgent makeover: WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released its most comprehensive review of the world’s mental health in over 20 years with an action plan that every WHO state member has signed to transform mental health care, according to a recent press release.  

“Everyone’s life touches someone with a mental health condition. Good mental health translates to good physical health and this new report makes a compelling case for change,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. 

“The inextricable links between mental health and public health, human rights and socioeconomic development mean that transforming policy and practice in mental health can deliver real, substantive benefits for individuals, communities and countries everywhere. Investment into mental health is an investment into a better life and future for all.” 

Approximately 1 billion people, including 14% adolescents globally, lived with a mental health disorder in 2019. 

Mental health disorders are the top cause of disability, with those with severe mental health conditions dying 10 to 20 years earlier on average compared to the general population mostly because of physical diseases that are preventable. 

And the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated certain mental health conditions, with depression and anxiety increasing more than 25% during its first year alone. 

Sexual abuse and bullying are two main causes of childhood depression. 

But many people with depression are not receiving treatment. 

Approximately one third of high-income people with depression receive formal mental health care, but “minimally-adequate treatment” is estimated for only 3% in low and lower-middle-income countries. 

Suicide accounted for more than 1% of deaths, with more than half occurring before age 50, but “20 countries still criminalize attempted suicide.” 

“Across countries, it is the poorest and most disadvantaged in society who are at greatest risk of mental ill-health and who are also the least likely to receive adequate services,” the release said. 

Although there has been some progress in mental health care, the WHO hopes to accelerate the change, noting two out of three dollars of scarce government spending on mental health is allocated to inpatient psychiatric hospitals rather than community programs, which are most beneficial for people. 

The WHO provided three broad recommendations to improve mental health, including calling on governments, individuals and communities to strengthen “the value and commitment” to mental health and its care as well as to change “the physical, social and economic characteristics of environments” that impact mental health. 

“Every country has ample opportunity to make meaningful progress towards better mental health for its population,” said Dévora Kestel, director of WHO’s Mental Health and Substance Use Department. 

‘Forever chemicals’ in water and packaging can risk health, EPA says

The Environmental Protection Agency is warning that two nonstick and stain-resistant compounds found in drinking water are more dangerous than previously thought — and pose health risks even at levels so low they cannot currently be detected.

The two compounds, known as PFOA and PFOS, have been voluntarily phased out by U.S. manufacturers, but there are a limited number of ongoing uses and the chemicals remain in the environment because they do not degrade over time. The compounds are part of a larger cluster of “forever chemicals” known as PFAS that have been used in consumer products and industry since the 1940s.

The EPA on Wednesday issued nonbinding health advisories that set health risk thresholds for PFOA and PFOS to near zero, replacing 2016 guidelines that had set them at 70 parts per trillion. The chemicals are found in products including cardboard packaging, carpets and firefighting foam.

At the same time, the agency is inviting states and territories to apply for $1 billion under the new bipartisan infrastructure law to address PFAS and other contaminants in drinking water. Money can be used for technical assistance, water quality testing, contractor training and installation of centralized treatment, officials said.

Several states have set their own drinking water limits to address PFAS contamination that are far tougher than the federal guidance. The toxic industrial compounds are associated with serious health conditions, including cancer and reduced birth weight.

“People on the front-lines of PFAS contamination have suffered for far too long,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement. “That’s why EPA is taking aggressive action as part of a whole-of-government approach to prevent these chemicals from entering the environment and to help protect concerned families from this pervasive challenge.”

PFAS is short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, which are used in nonstick frying pans, water-repellent sports gear, stain-resistant rugs, cosmetics and countless other consumer products. The chemical bonds are so strong that they don’t degrade or do so only slowly in the environment and remain in a person’s bloodstream indefinitely.

The revised health guidelines are based on new science and consider lifetime exposure to the chemicals, the EPA said. Officials are no longer confident that PFAS levels allowed under the 2016 guidelines “do not have adverse health impacts,” an EPA spokesman said.

While the new guidelines set acceptable risk below levels that can currently be measured, as a practical matter EPA recommends that utilities take action against the chemicals when they reach levels that can be measured — currently about four parts per trillion, a senior administration official told reporters Tuesday night.

The EPA said it expects to propose national drinking water regulations for PFOA and PFOS later this year, with a final rule expected in 2023.

In a related development, the EPA said that for the first time it is issuing final health advisories for two chemicals that are considered replacements for PFOA and PFOS. One group is known as GenX chemicals, while the other is known as PFBS. Health advisories for GenX chemicals were set at 10 parts per trillion, while PFBS was set at 2,000 parts per trillion.

The agency said the new advisories provide technical information that federal, state and local agencies can use to inform actions to address PFAS in drinking water, including water quality monitoring, use of filters and other technologies that reduce PFAS and strategies to reduce exposure to the substances.

Environmental and public health groups hailed the announcement as a good first step. Advocates have long urged action on PFAS after thousands of communities detected PFAS chemicals in their water. PFAS chemicals have been confirmed at nearly 400 military installations and at least 200 million Americans are drinking water contaminated with PFAS, according to the Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy organization.

“EPA had the courage to follow the science. This is a step in the right direction,” said Stel Bailey, co-facilitator of National PFAS Contamination Coalition.

“The science is clear: These chemicals are shockingly toxic at extremely low doses,” added Erik Olson, senior strategic director for health and food at the Natural Resources Defense Council. He called on the EPA to regulate all PFAS chemicals “with enforceable standards as a single class of chemicals.”

Melanie Benesh, legislative attorney for the Environmental Working Group, said the EPA’s announcement “should set off alarm bells for consumers and regulators” alike. She urged the EPA to “move much faster to dramatically reduce exposures to these toxic chemicals.”

The American Chemistry Council, which represents major chemical companies, said in a statement that while it supports development of drinking water standards for PFAS based on the best available science, the EPA’s announcement “reflects a failure of the agency to follow its accepted practice for ensuring the scientific integrity of its process.”

While the advisories are non-binding, “they will have sweeping implications for policies at the state and federal levels,” the group said. “These new levels cannot be achieved with existing treatment technology and, in fact, are below levels that can be reliably detected using existing EPA methods.”

The Chemours Co., a DuPont spinoff that uses so-called GenX chemicals to produce high-performance fluoropolymers used in semiconductors, mobile phones, hospital ventilators and other products, called the EPA’s announcement “fundamentally flawed.”

EPA “disregarded relevant data and issued a health advisory contrary to the agency’s own standards and this administration’s commitment to scientific integrity,” Chemours said in a statement.

The company is “already using state-of-the-art technologies at our sites to abate emissions and remediate historical releases” Chemours said, adding that officials are evaluating next steps, “including potential legal action, to address the EPA’s scientifically unsound action.”

An investigation by the state of North Carolina found that Chemours had discharged GenX from its Fayetteville Works plant into the Cape Fear River for years. EPA chief Regan was the state’s top environmental official when the probe began and led negotiations that resulted in cleanup of the river.

Gov. Roy Cooper and his current environmental chief unveiled a three-pronged strategy last week address further efforts to reduce and remedy a broad category of PFAS chemicals in water sources.

Legislation passed by the House would set a national drinking water standard for PFAS and direct the EPA to develop discharge limits for a range of industries suspected of releasing PFAS into the water. The bill has stalled in the Senate.

Drug to treat alopecia approved by FDA

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced Tuesday that it approved Olumiant oral tablets for adult patients who are affected by severe alopecia areata. 

The move by the agency marks the first FDA approval of a systemic treatment for the disorder. 

“Access to safe and effective treatment options is crucial for the significant number of Americans affected by severe alopecia,” Dr. Kendall Marcus, the director of the Division of Dermatology and Dentistry in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a statement. “Today’s approval will help fulfill a significant unmet need for patients with severe alopecia areata.”

Commonly referred to as just alopecia, alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder that develops when the body attacks its own hair follicles, which can cause hair loss anywhere on the body. 

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, it can begin at any age, although most people develop it during childhood or their teenage years. 

There are several types of alopecia areata, including alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis.

The disorder, which impacts more than 300,000 Americans each year, often appears as patchy baldness. 

The approval for the drug was granted to Eli Lilly. 

The tablets are a Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor, which blocks the activity of one or more of a specific family of enzymes, interfering with the pathway that leads to inflammation.

Its efficacy and safety were tested in two randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled trials. 

Participants had at least 50% scalp hair loss, as measured by the severity of alopecia tool, for more than half a year. 

The patients either received a placebo, 2 milligrams of Olumiant, or 4 milligrams every day. 

The FDA explained that the primary measurement of efficacy for both trials was the proportion of patients who had achieved at least 80% scalp hair coverage at week 36. 

“In Trial AA-1, 22% of the 184 patients who received 2 milligrams of Olumiant and 35% of the 281 patients who received 4 milligrams of Olumiant achieved adequate scalp hair coverage, compared to 5% of the 189 patients who received a placebo. In Trial AA-2, 17% of the 156 patients who received 2 milligrams of Olumiant and 32% of the 234 patients who received 4 milligrams of Olumiant achieved adequate scalp hair coverage, compared to 3% of the 156 patients who received a placebo,” the FDA said. 

The most common side effects associated with Olumiant include upper respiratory tract infections, headache, acne, high cholesterol, fatigue, nausea and weight increase.

It was initially approved in 2018 as a treatment for certain adult patients with moderately to severely active rheumatoid arthritis and is also approved for the treatment of COVID-19 in certain hospitalized adults.  

It is not recommended for use in combination with other JAK inhibitors, biologic immunomodulators, cyclosporine or other potent immunosuppressants. 

Diabetes drug lead to significant weight loss in people with obesity: study

A diabetes drug taken once a week lead to dramatic weight loss in people who have obesity, according to a recently published study in The New England Journal of Medicine. The study authors said that participants in the 72-week trial lost up to 20% of their body weight. 

“The findings indicate tirzepatide may be a potential therapeutic option for individuals living with obesity, with participants losing between 16% and 22.5% of their starting weight”, the authors said in the study. 

The drug, tirzepatide, is a novel drug that was recently approved by the Food & Drug Administration to help treat type 2 diabetes through a once-weekly injection. The drug, works on two hormones that help control blood sugar and send fullness signals to the brainthe authors explained in the studyThe investigators decided to look at the effect of the diabetes drug on obesity and presented the findings of the phase 3 trial at a symposium at the 82nd Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association® (ADA) in New Orleans, LA. 

The 72-week phase 3 double-blind, randomized, controlled trial, involved over 2500 participants who were considered obese and did not have diabetes.  

The team of researchers divided the participants into four groups. Three of the groups were given 5mg, 10mg or 15mg of tirzepatide to be self-administered once a week for 72 weeks, while the fourth group was given a self-administered placebo injection. All four groups were given counseling sessions regarding lifestyle habits and low-calorie meals. They also performed at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week.

The investigators found that 89% of participants, who took the 5 mg dose of the drug and 96% of those who took 10 mg and 15 mg weekly doses of the drug, achieved at least 5% body weight reductions compared to 28% of those in the placebo group. 

According to the report, participants who took the 5 mg dose of tirzepatide lost an average of 35 pounds, and the 10 mg group achieved an average loss of 49 pounds. The participants who took the 15 mg injection saw an average 52-pound weight loss over the 72-week course of the study. Those in the placebo group achieved a 5 lb. average of weight loss, according to the study.

“Obesity should be treated like any other chronic disease – with effective and safe approaches that target underlying disease mechanisms, and these results underscore that tirzepatide may be doing just that,” lead researcher Ania Jastreboff, MD, PhD, an associate professor Yale University School of Medicine, and director of Weight Management and Obesity Prevention at the Yale Stress Center told one media outlet. 

“These results are an important step forward in potentially expanding effective therapeutic options for people with obesity. Notably, about 9 out of 10 individuals with obesity lost weight while taking tirzepatide,” Jastreboff, who is also the co-director of the Yale Center for Weight Management in Connecticut said in the media report.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC), the prevalence of obesity in the United States was nearly 42% in 2017 through March 2020. The CDC stated that obesity related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. 

Overeating isn’t fueling obesity, it’s too many carbohydrates in our diet, researchers say

Carbohydrates may be your worst enemy if you are trying to lose weight. 

The “Today” show recently highlighted a perspective piece that suggests the key to losing weight is more about cutting carbohydrates rather than worrying so much about balancing the calories we eat and burn, according to paper published this past December in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 

“The body fights back against calorie restriction,” lead author Dr. David Ludwig told “Today.” 

Limiting calories causes people to be more hungry, but also slows the metabolism down, the show said. 

“So there aren’t too many calories in the bloodstream. There are too few.” 

When our body makes too much insulin, the fat cells get programmed to hoard calories, he explained.  

Ludwig, an endocrinologist and professor of pediatrics and nutrition at Harvard Medical School, argues for the “carbohydrate-insulin model” of obesity. 

The pancreas produces a hormone called insulin to control the amount of sugar, or glucose, in our bloodstream where it works like a “key” to help glucose enters cells in our body, according to Healthline. 

Ludwig suggests our way of thinking in regard to weight loss is backwards.  

“Given the choice between bread and butter, for years we focused on getting rid of the butter,” said Ludwig.  

“But maybe between the two, the bread is the bigger issue.” 

He says it’s not so much that eating too many calories leads to weight gain, but the high sugar content of certain carbohydrates triggers our bodies to store too much energy, which in turn causes us to eat even more. 

We start to develop fat stores when the calories we are ingesting is greater than the calories we can burn over time, said Dr. Karl Nadolsky, an endocrinologist specializing in diabetes, metabolism and obesity.  

“The whole world thinks obesity is about energy balance,” said Dr. Robert Lustig, professor of pediatrics in the division of endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco, who described a similar model of excess insulin leading to weight gain in 2006. 

“Therefore, it’s calories in, calories out. Therefore, it’s about two behaviors, gluttony and sloth. Therefore, if you’re fat, it’s your fault. Therefore, diet and exercise. Therefore, any calorie can be part of a balanced diet.” 

Ludwig and his co-authors note that the energy balance theory of people taking in more than they burn explains why people gain weight, but it’s the “why” that’s not being addressed.   

“The common recommendation, ‘eat less, be more physically active,’ that we tell people doesn’t work very well. Results are not that successful,” said Dr. Samuel Klein, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.  

But Ludwig’s paper stirred up controversy in the medical community, with researchers both “defending and deriding” the piece, according to MedPage Today. 

“If weight loss were as simple as eating fewer carbs, you might think that the two thirds of Americans who diet every year would have found some success by now,” said Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, associate professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa and medical director of the Bariatric Medical Institute, a nonsurgical weight management center.  

Nevertheless, meaningful research on low carbohydrate diets is currently ongoing that’s providing tangible results for some patients.  

Dr. Jeff Volek, registered dietitian and professor in the Department of Human Sciences at the Ohio State University who has researched low carbohydrate diets for over 25 years, told the “Today” show that research shows people on a low-carb diet can lose up to 10% of their body weight.  

And people are keeping it off. 

The show highlighted one of his patients, a 42-year-old woman, who signed up for a low carbohydrate diet study in 2019, containing 37 grams of carbohydrate daily, which was also high in protein and healthy fats, such as avocados and nuts.  

Within six weeks she lost 20 pounds, but now three years later, she has lost a cumulative 88 pounds.  

She told “Today” that it “wasn’t easy” to forgo her favorite foods at first, like pasta and potatoes, but the results are worth it. 

“When you limit carbohydrates, the body gets really good at burning its own body fat because it doesn’t have a lot of sugar to burn for fuel,” Volek said on “Today.”  

Volek explained to Fox News on why low-carbohydrate diets often fail. 

“The vast majority of adults in the U.S. (well over 100 million people) are consuming too many carbs relative to their tolerance, which is why low-fat diets don’t work for most people. A strong body of research demonstrates that cutting back on carbs is a safe, effective and sustainable approach to improving weight and metabolic health,” he said.   

Melatonin poisoning in kids sharply increased during coronavirus pandemic, study says

Researchers are drawing attention to a rise in poisonings in children involving the sleep aid melatonin – including a big jump during the pandemic.

Last year, U.S. poison control centers received more than 52,000 calls about children consuming worrisome amounts of the dietary supplement – a six-fold increase from about a decade earlier. Most such calls are about young children who accidentally got into bottles of melatonin, some of which come in the form of gummies for kids.

Parents may think of melatonin as the equivalent of a vitamin and leave it on a nightstand, said Dr. Karima Lelak, an emergency physician at Children’s Hospital of Michigan and the lead author of the study published Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “But really it’s a medication that has the potential to cause harm, and should be put away in the medicine cabinet,” Lelak said.

WHAT IS MELATONIN?

Melatonin is a hormone that helps control the body’s sleep cycle. It has become a popular over-the-counter sleeping aid, with sales increasing 150% between 2016 and 2020, the authors said.

In the U.S., melatonin is sold as a supplement, not regulated as a drug. Because melatonin is unregulated, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t have oversight over the purity of ingredients or the accuracy of dosage claims.

Other researchers have found that what’s on the label may not match what’s actually in the bottle, and some countries have banned the sale of over-the-counter melatonin.

HOW ARE MELATONIN OVERDOSES TREATED?

Many people can tolerate even relatively large doses of melatonin without significant harm, experts say. But there is no antidote for an overdose. In cases of a child accidentally ingesting melatonin, experts often ask a reliable adult to monitor them at home.

But slowed breathing or other worrisome signs can mean a child should be taken to a hospital.

WHAT DID THE RESEARCHERS FIND?

Lelak and her colleagues looked at reports to poison control centers from 2012 to 2021, counting more than 260,000 calls about kids taking too much melatonin. They represented 0.6% of all poison control calls in 2012 and about 5% in 2021.

In about 83% of those calls, the children did not show any symptoms. But other children endured vomiting, had altered breathing or showed other symptoms. Over the 10 years studied, more than 4,000 kids were hospitalized, five needed to be put on machines to help them breathe, and two – both younger than 2 – died.

Most of the hospitalized children were teenagers, and many of those were believed to be suicide attempts.

WHAT HAPPENED DURING THE PANDEMIC?

Reported melatonin poisonings have been increasing for at least a decade, but the largest increases happened after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in 2020. Between 2019 and 2020, the count shot up 38%.

There may be several reasons, Lelak said. Because of lockdowns and virtual learning, more children were at home all day, meaning there were more opportunities for kids to access melatonin. Also, the pandemic caused sleep-disrupting stress and anxiety that may have caused more families to consider melatonin.

“Children were upset about being home, teenagers were closed off from friends. And on top of all that everyone’s looking at screens for hours and hours a day,” Lelak said.

NYC Legionnaires’ disease outbreak: Second death reported

New York City health officials report that two people have died and least 24 have been infected with Legionnaires’ disease in the Highbridge neighborhood of the Bronx.

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia caused by a type of bacteria called Legionella that are found usually in water. 

People catch the disease when they breathe in a mist or vapor containing the bacteria; the bacteria are not spread from person to person.

In addition, people cannot get Legionnaires’ disease by drinking water that has Legionella bacteria. 

“It is fine to drink cold water from the tap. When heating water for tea, coffee or cooking, start with cold water,” the city notes.

The city’s health department said the community cluster – which was first tracked at the beginning of last month – was located in ZIP codes 10452 and 10456 and bordering communities. 

“Two people have died, and 4 people are currently hospitalized. The two individuals who passed were over the age of 50 and had risk factors for severe disease. The remediation ordered by the Department for the four cooling towers that tested positive for the presence of Legionella pneumophila, a type of bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, was completed last week,” it said.

Any New Yorker with flu-like symptoms, cough, fever or difficulty breathing should contact a physician immediately. 

Additional symptoms include headaches, fatigue, loss of appetite, confusion or diarrhea.

Legionnaires’ disease causes flu-like symptoms, and complications from the disease can be fatal.

People who are smokers or have a medical condition that affects breathing are especially at risk, as well as those who are 50 years or older and people who have a weakened immune system or take medicines that weaken their immune system.

While Legionnaires’ disease can be treated with antibiotics when caught early, there is no vaccine or medicine that can prevent it.

The best way to stop Legionnaires’ disease is through proper maintenance of water system where the bacteria may grow. 

New York City has had Legionnaires’ outbreaks before, notably in 2015 when 12 people died.