NYC Transit Workers Hit Hard by COVID-19: Survey

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 28, 2020 — The COVID-19 pandemic is taking a significant toll on New York City transit workers, who are grappling with illness, anxiety and the loss of colleagues.

About 24% of transit workers who participated in a pilot study led by New York University researchers reported having had COVID-19. About 76% said they knew a colleague who had died of the disease and 90% feared they also would get sick.

Six out of 10 reported feeling on-edge and unable to control their worry, while 15% said they felt depressed and 10% had trouble sleeping.

Despite those concerns, only 3 in 10 said they planned to get a COVID-19 vaccine when one is available, and another 38% said they were unsure, citing safety concerns.

“Through gaining a deeper understanding of how COVID-19 has impacted transit workers’ health and quality of life, we can determine how to best support them and protect them moving forward,” said lead author Robyn Gershon, a clinical professor of epidemiology at NYU School of Global Public Health.

“Our findings on workers’ anxiety are concerning, given that we conducted the survey in August, months after the peak of the pandemic in New York City,” she said in a university news release.

New York City was an early U.S. epicenter of the virus. Though schools and many businesses closed in March, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) continued service largely to keep transportation available for essential workers.

Transit workers have frequent contact with the public and limited space in crew rooms, increasing their risk of infection. Thousands have been infected with COVID-19, and more than 130 MTA workers have died, according to published reports.

The new study was done in partnership with Transport Workers Union Local 100. Researchers sent surveys to a sampling of transit workers in August, asking them to anonymously share experiences. They received 645 responses.

Based on the results, researchers are urging the MTA to expand ongoing virus and antibody testing to better identify asymptomatic workers. They also called on MTA to continue making personal protective equipment available and to provide workplace mental health services.

“As a researcher who studied the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on workers in the World Trade Center, I saw that services that supported employee mental health made a difference,” Gershon said. “Some employers brought mental health professionals into the workplace for drop-in sessions, held bereavement groups, and hosted memorials to remember employees lost in the attacks. The workplaces that invested in these services — that recognized the loss of life and didn’t diminish it — fared much better than those who did not.”

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Arkansas reports first flu death of the season

Concerns rise as coronavirus, flu season overlap

For some, it may be hard to recognize which symptoms go with each illness

As several areas of the country struggle to contain surging cases of the novel coronavirus, another infectious disease poses a threat to many: the seasonal flu, which has already killed at least one person in Arkansas. 

The Arkansas Department of Health in its most recent weekly influenza report announced the first flu death in the state of the 2020-21 season in a resident who was 65 or older, per the report, which is current as of Oct. 24. No other details were provided. 

Medical experts have urged Americans to remain diligent this year in protecting themselves against the flu amid the ongoing coronavirus epidemic in the country.  

Additionally, since the end of September, some 118 people have tested positive for the flu in the state. At least 11 of the positives were included in the health department’s most recent report. 

Medical experts have urged Americans to remain diligent this year in protecting themselves against the flu amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.  


"It's particularly important to get vaccinated [against the flu] this year because of the ongoing COVID pandemic: We want people to stay as healthy as possible," Michelle Lin, an emergency room doctor and professor of emergency medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, previously told Fox News. "Since people are trying to stay home and out of the doctor's office [and/or] ER, there has been a push to make the vaccine available widely earlier."

Interestingly, however, the results of a survey commissioned by the National Foundation for Infectious Disease (NFID) and conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago found that while most participants agreed the vaccine is the best protection against flu, a smaller percentage actually plan to be inoculated.

In a survey of 1,000 adults ages 18 or older from across the country, 68% agreed that receiving the flu vaccine is the “best preventive measure against flu-related deaths and hospitalizations,” up from 61% the year before.


But by comparison, only 59% of respondents said they actually plan to be vaccinated against the flu, with 15% saying they are unsure. (For context, 52% of respondents in 2019 said they planned to receive the flu vaccine that year.)

“The flu shot is incredibly important because it reduces your risk of contracting the flu,“ added Lin, noting the vaccine “also reduces your risk for complications and passing it to other people, especially pregnant women, young children and the elderly,” who are more susceptible to the virus.

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Kylie Jenner: I Think About Having More Kids 'Every Day'

A sibling for Stormi? Kylie Jenner gushed about plans to expand her family.

Everything Kylie Jenner and Travis Scott Have Said About Their Daughter

“I want more so bad,” the Keeping Up With the Kardashians star, 23, told James Charles in a Tuesday, October 27, YouTube video. “I want more so bad, I actually think about it every day. I just still don’t know when. I’m not planning. I don’t have a time [when] that will happen.”

The makeup mogul added that her and Travis Scott’s 2-year-old is the “best baby of all time,” explaining, “She’s so smart beyond her years. I’m excited for her to grow up, but I’m really sad at the same time.”

Stormi Webster’s Baby Album: Kylie Jenner and Travis Scott’s 1st Child

The Kylie Cosmetics creator went on to call parenting “stressful,” saying that she feels the pressure “to do the right thing at all times.”

The reality star said, “I read books, I follow Instagram [accounts], I’m trying to learn the best way to raise a kid. But I think every kid is different, so you have to do just whatever you think is better for your child.”

The E! personality and Scott, 29, welcomed Stormi in February 2018. The on-again, off-again couple have been doing an “amazing” job coparenting their toddler, a source exclusively told Us Weekly earlier this month.

In January, the Kylie Skin creator revealed in a YouTube video that she sees herself having “four kids” in the future. “I don’t have a timeline to this. I don’t know if I’m going to have four kids tomorrow or if I’m going to have four kids in seven years.”

See Kylie Jenner and Her Daughter Stormi’s Best Moments

Jenner’s mindset was a bit different two years prior, however. The California native said in a 2018 Snapchat Q&A that she was “definitely not ready” for baby No. 2. “I want another baby, but when is the question,” the Life of Kylie alum told Jordyn Woods at the time. “I don’t know when I will be [ready].”

For now, Jenner and Scott “love spending time together with Stormi and making her happy,” an insider told Us earlier this month. “Travis is a hands-on, super engaged dad and always wants to make Stormi smile. She is such a happy child.”

For access to all our exclusive celebrity videos and interviews – Subscribe on YouTube!

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Caterina Scorsone Opens Up About Raising a Child Who Has Down Syndrome: 'My Daughter Is Perfect'

Caterina Scorsone knows her girls are "perfect" just as they are.

The Grey's Anatomy actress, 39, details her tight-knit relationship with her three daughters for PEOPLE's cover story this week, including what she's learned since becoming mom to Eliza, 8, Pippa, who turns 4 next month, and Lucky, 10 months.

Scorsone reflects on raising Pippa, who was born with Down syndrome, saying her "difference lit a match in my life and in the life of my family."

"When my daughter Pippa was born, I was scared. I didn't know anything about trisomy 21, the name for the occurrence of a third copy of the 21st chromosome, better known as Down syndrome," she says. "… I didn't know anything. All I knew about Down syndrome was that people were afraid of it, so I figured I should be too."

The star explains how she quickly shifted her perspective, seeing any of Pippa's differences as beautiful individuality like anyone else's unique attributes. Scorsone says Pippa's arrival "cracked open a door in my life" — for the better.

"It suddenly became crystal clear," she says, adding, "There is no standard, objective, perfect human being. The metrics of perfection are arbitrary and imposed in the service of those who fit them. My daughter is perfect. Exactly the way she is."

"Pippa is perfect exactly as she is. So are you, and so am I. The only way we lose sight of that perfection is to look for it somewhere else," she says.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

Watch the full episode of People Cover Story: Caterina Scorsone streaming now on, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite device.

Scorsone says her life has been infused with kindness ever since Pippa was born — and since she connected with other families with differently abled children.

"I didn't really know what family could feel like until I entered the disability community and met other families that loved and included a person with Down syndrome," she says. "These hilarious, real humans reached their arms around us when Pippa was born and pulled us into the most joyful, fierce hug we've ever experienced."

Remarking on what she now knows that she didn't prior to welcoming Pippa, Scorsone says "the birth of a baby with Down syndrome is something to be celebrated rather than feared."

Caterina Scorsone 'Awestruck by the Love' from Her Daughters on First Mother's Day After Split

Back in April 2019, Scorsone, who shares her children with ex Rob Giles, opened up to PEOPLE about parenting, saying that "one thing that changes when you have kids is that nothing is in your control anymore."

She added at the time, "You have to roll with whatever is happening and there are people that are now in your life very intimately and in your space who have distinctly different personalities from you."

For more on Caterina Scorsone's life with her three daughters, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

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Here's how to reconnect with your friends if you're feeling lonely

A newly commissioned study has the stats on just how much coronavirus has impacted our relationships, and offers research-led advice on how to reconnect with the people that we’re missing. 

This pandemic has had an impact on just about every facet of our everyday lives, with everything from our workdays to our exercise routines having been forced to change in response to new rules.

As a direct result of our newly limited lives, in which who we can see and where we can go are restricted, there has been a big rise in people reporting feelings of loneliness. Unsurprisingly, social distancing rules have caused people to lose touch with people they care about, with forms of communication like calling or texting simply not offering the same potential for closeness and comfort.

To gain a better understanding of just how much of a problem loneliness has become in recent months, Snapchat commissioned a huge piece of research, examining how coronavirus has affected peoples’ relationships and their feelings of isolation during the coronavirus crisis. Having noted that, across the world, 79% of people have reported losing touch with a close friend this year, the research aims to find ways to bridge the rifts the pandemic has opened up between people. 

With analysis of interviews of 30,000 people across 16 countries, Snapchat’s “global Friendship Study” brings together the insights of seventeen experts on friendship. 

Loneliness in the UK 

In this new Friendship Study, it is revealed that the number of people in Britain feeling lonely has been rising steadily over the course of the year, with 68% of people reportedly experiencing loneliness as a direct result of the pandemic.

Lack of ability to see friends is cited as the main reason why, with almost half of people (48%) saying that “being unable to see their friends has made them feel lonelier”, and a similar number (49%) reporting that they don’t feel as close to their friends since lockdowns were imposed. 

Of course, we do still have ways of staying in touch with people, no matter where in the country they are. In fact, more and more people have been using online forms of communication to stay in touch with people they can’t meet up with in person, with around two-thirds (64%) saying that they have been instant messaging and video calling their friends more frequently than they did prior to the pandemic. And, with this being the primary form of contact for so many people, many have also found that their online chats with friends have become more in-depth.

But still, in spite of all of the potential for maintaining friendships online communication affords us, people are still feeling lonelier. As Laavanya Kathiravelu, an expert in friendship and migration who is cited in the study, explains, “although friendships continue to be maintained through apps and phone calls, the disembodied element takes away from the full experience of friendship for many”.

Clearly, while people can still talk to their friends at the moment, not being able to see them is still taking its toll. It’s also not that easy to keep up in-depth conversations with everyone you know and love all at once; there are only so many hours in the day, and not all of them can be spent on your phone or at your laptop. 

Consequently, 88% of people in the UK have reported losing touch with a friend this year, which is almost 10% higher than the global average. But friendships are more important to us now than ever, with good friendships being the best defence we have against feeling isolated and alone. So how can we reach out? And how can we make the most of our friendships when we can’t spend time with our friends in person? 

The best ways to get back in touch 

While many would appreciate the opportunity to reconnect with an old friend, not everyone has the confidence to do so. Whether because they feel too awkward to make the first move, or they just can’t decide how to get the conversation going, the Friendship Study found that 54% of respondents didn’t really know how to get back in touch.

As social psychology lecturer Gillian Sandstrom explains in the study, there is something called a “liking gap”, in which we assume that people like us less than they actually do. “This bias breeds insecurity about engaging in conversations”, making us far less likely to reach out, even to someone we have a close bond with. But Gillian knows that “people are more likely to like you than you think”, and so it’s important not to let that nagging insecurity get in the way of reconnecting with someone you miss. 

If you’re really not sure how to start up the conversation, though, then the study has some insights that could help. For starters, it noted that the “number one thing” people would want to send to or receive from their friends to rekindle communication is a photo of them together (42%), closely followed by “a photo that reminded them of a shared memory (40%)”.

It also found that starting a conversation using humour was a great way to go, with 31% of respondents thinking that a relatable meme or funny GIF would be a good way to break the ice. So this means that you don’t need to worry about thinking of the perfect opening line, because using something that is visual and relatable might just be the ideal way to get the conversation flowing again. 

If you’re worried about your mental health at this time, support and resources are available on mental health charity Mind’s website or the NHS online pages.

Images: Getty, Unsplash

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Divided Belgium turns into Europe’s worst virus hot spot

Small, yet so divided, Belgium has been hit hard again by the pandemic, and now presents some of the most worrying statistics in a continent reeling under the virus’ resurgence.

If ever there was a common enemy for the rival Dutch- and French-speaking citizens and regions to fight, this would surely be it. But even now cooperation goes against the grain in Belgium, to the extent that the country’s Roman Catholics bishops issued a call for all, in the name of the Lord, to show some unity.

“We can win the battle against the coronavirus only if we do it together,” the bishops said in a joint letter ahead of Sunday’s All Saints Day, highlighting the different rules imposed by the country’s national and three regional governments, who are responsible for an area 300 kilometers (185 miles) at its widest reach.

This week, news struck that the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control had recorded Belgium—shoehorned in between Germany, France and the Netherlands—as having the highest 14-day cumulative number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 citizens, just surpassing the Czech Republic.

At 1,390.9 per 100,000 people, it far outstrips even hotbeds like France or Spain. Nearly 11,000 people have died so far, and experts say all such confirmed numbers undercount the true toll of the pandemic.

All this in a wealthy nation of 11.5 million people where no fewer than nine ministers—national and regional—have a say on health issues. The dictum “less is more” never reached the Belgian high echelons of power.

“A great many politicians can claim power but, in the end, no one is ever responsible,” historian and former member of the European Parliament Luckas Vander Taelen said. He called Belgium’s system of multiple layers of government to serve the 6.5 million Dutch-speaking Flemings in the north and the 5 million Francophones “institutional lasagna.”

Throughout the pandemic crisis, the Belgian population was unified in one thing: The general sense of confusion and bewilderment about the ever-changing measures imposed by the different layers of government. For someone living near Brussels, a closing hour or limits on sports hall attendance might mean three different things within a radius of 20 kilometers (12 miles).

Late Tuesday, the regional government of Flanders finally considered adapting its coronavirus curfew to match that of the francophone region and Brussels, but then thought better of it. While it stays at midnight in the north of the country, it is at 10 p.m. in other areas, complicating life for everyone who travels from one region to the other, as so many commuters do.

Even during the health crisis, linguistic strife raised its head, something which has never been fully contained during almost two centuries and two World Wars, when the whole nation faced one common enemy.

Christoph D’Haese, the mayor of Aalst in Flanders, recently said he would no longer accept patients from Brussels, Belgium’s largely francophone capital.

“Medical solidarity has limits and borders,” he said. Hospital authorities disagreed and insisted that the essence of medical solidarity was the lack of borders.

When the Brussels UZ hospital, with Flemish roots, warned that the capital needed to take tougher action to contain the crisis, the Francophone Brussels Health Minister Alain Maron sniped back that “when a Flemish hospital in Brussels raises a problem, it is a major issue, and when six of 14 hospitals in (Flemish) Antwerp are in the same situation, nobody talks about it.”

Vander Taelen has seen it all before. “So fast, you get to the level of village politics. Even when lives are at stake.”

Paradoxically compounding the problems of too many governments is the issue that Belgium had been without a fully-functioning national government for almost 500 days before Prime Minister Alexander De Croo cobbled together a 7-party coalition one month ago. One of the last measures his predecessor took in September was to relax virus measures—against the advice of medical experts. That relaxation is now partly blamed for the record surge this fall.

Charles Michel, the European Union Council President, was groomed in Belgian politics but now sees that against such a foe only a continent-wide approach is effective, not a patchwork of ill-coordinated local measures.

“Of course, health—like social affairs—is primarily a matter for the member states, and even the regions. However, this crisis has already demonstrated that no single country can tackle the situation on its own,” he said Tuesday. “Any management of this epidemic on a patchwork basis, whereby some would emerge better off than others, would serve only to exacerbate the economic imbalances.”

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New strategy for treating common retinal diseases shows promise

Scientists at Scripps Research have uncovered a potential new strategy for treating eye diseases that affect millions of people around the world, often resulting in blindness.

Many serious eye diseases—including age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and related disorders of the retina—feature abnormal overgrowth of new retinal blood vessel branches, which can lead to progressive loss of vision. It’s a phenomenon called “neovascularization.”

For the past decade and a half, eye doctors have been treating these conditions with drugs that block a protein, VEGF, that’s responsible for spurring new vessel growth. Such drugs have improved the treatment of these conditions, but don’t always work well and have potential safety issues. The Scripps Research scientists, in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that a new approach that doesn’t target VEGF directly is highly effective in mice and has broader benefits than a standard VEGF-blocking treatment.

“We were thrilled to see how well this worked in the animal model,” says Rebecca Berlow, Ph.D., co-senior author of the study. “There really is a need for another way to treat patients who do not respond well to anti-VEGF treatments.”

Berlow is a staff scientist in the laboratory of Peter Wright, Ph.D., professor and Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Investigator in the Department of Integrative Structural and Computational Biology. The co-senior author on the study was Martin Friedlander, MD, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Molecular Medicine at Scripps Research, retina specialist and ophthalmologist in the Division of Ophthalmology at Scripps Clinic and President of the Lowy Medical Research Institute.

Ayumi Usui-Ouchi, MD, Ph.D., a post-doctoral fellow in Friedlander’s laboratory and visiting assistant professor from the Department of Ophthalmology at Juntendo University in Tokyo, Japan, led the laboratory effort.

“Our findings have important implications for treating these retinal diseases,” Friedlander says.

New alternative to an imperfect solution

Vision-impairing neovascularization in the retina typically represents the body’s faulty attempt to restore a blood supply that has been impaired by aging, diabetes, high blood cholesterol or other factors.

As the small vessels supplying the retina narrow or fail, oxygen levels in the retina decline. This low-oxygen condition, called hypoxia, is sensed by a protein called HIF-1α, which then triggers a complex “hypoxic response.” This response includes boosting production of the VEGF protein to bring more blood to areas in need. In principle, this is an adaptive, beneficial response. But chronic hypoxia leads to chronic and harmful—blindness-causing—overgrowth of abnormal, often leaky, new vessels.

Although anti-VEGF drugs stabilize or improve vision quality in most patients, about 40 percent are not significantly helped by these drugs. Moreover, researchers are concerned that the long-term blocking of VEGF, a growth factor needed for the health of many tissues including the retina, may do harm along with good. Many cases of retinal neovascularization are accompanied by the loss of tiny blood vessels elsewhere in the retina, and blocking VEGF inhibits or prevents the re-growth of these vessels.

In a 2017 paper in Nature, Berlow and colleagues described the workings of a different protein that naturally dials down the hypoxic response and thus might be the basis for an alternative treatment strategy. The protein, CITED2, is produced by HIF-1α as part of the hypoxic response, and apparently functions as a “negative feedback” regulator that blocks HIF-1α’s ability to switch on hypoxic response genes—keeping the response from becoming too strong or staying on too long.

A winning combination

For the new study, the team of researchers conducted tests in a mouse model of retinal hypoxia and neovascularization, using a fragment of CITED2 that contains its functional, hypoxic-response-blocking elements.

They showed that when a solution of the CITED2 fragment was injected into the eye, it lowered the activity of genes that are normally switched on by HIF-1α in retinal cells, and significantly reduced neovascularization. Moreover, it did so while preserving, or allowing to re-grow, the healthy capillaries in the retina that would otherwise have been destroyed—researchers call it “vaso-obliteration”—in this model of retinal disease.

In the same mouse model, the researchers tested a drug called aflibercept, a standard anti-VEGF treatment. It helped reduce neovascularization, but did not prevent the destruction of retinal capillaries. However, reducing the dose of aflibercept and combining it with the CITED2 fragment yielded better results than either alone, strongly reducing neovascularization while preserving and restoring retinal capillaries.

CITED2’s ability to combine these two benefits appears to represent a key advance, the researchers conclude.

“Most hypoxia-related retinal disorders, such as diabetic retinopathy, have extensive capillary loss in late stages of disease, leading to neuronal cell death and vision loss,” Friedlander says. “No current treatment has any therapeutic benefit for this aspect of the disorder.”

The researchers now hope to develop the CITED2-based treatment further, with the ultimate goal of testing it in human clinical trials.

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More than half of American adults with advanced MS report mistreatment by caregivers

Four in 10 people with advanced multiple sclerosis, or MS, are emotionally abused by someone responsible for caring for them, reports a study led by the University of California, Riverside.

Further, the study finds one quarter are financially exploited, one in six are neglected, one in nine are battered, and one in 12 are sexually assaulted by a caregiver.

“We knew we would find some level of abuse and neglect, but we were surprised by how prevalent it is,” said Dr. Elizabeth Morrison-Banks, a health sciences clinical professor at the UC Riverside School of Medicine, who led the study. “The findings of this study represent a collective cry for help from so many families affected by multiple sclerosis across the United States.”

MS is an autoimmune disease that affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide. This chronic, degenerative neurological condition periodically shutters communication between the brain and other parts of the body, resulting in symptoms that include numbness and tingling in the arms and legs, as well as blindness and paralysis.

“MS affects people in different ways,” Morrison-Banks said. “Some people live with MS for many years but with milder symptoms, and they may remain completely self-sufficient and never require a caregiver. Others are less fortunate and develop neurological disability that can make them vulnerable to abuse and neglect if they are unable to move around independently, take care of their own finances, or get away from the situation when family conflict escalates. These problems are compounded if the person with MS and family lack financial resources.”

Morrison-Banks explained that for families who are struggling economically, relying on a paid caregiver is often not an option, and family caregivers have to step in to fill the breach.

“Some family caregivers are also working full time, caring for children or other family members, and sometimes dealing with health issues of their own,” she said. “All of these challenges can increase risk of mistreatment. I want to emphasize that the majority of family caregivers do not mistreat those they care for, even in situations that can be very challenging. Nonetheless, it is important to recognize the risk factors for mistreatment of people with disabilities, and do what we can to identify, mitigate, and prevent abuse and neglect.”

Study results appear in Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders. According to Morrison-Banks and her colleagues, the research paper is the first published survey documenting the nature and extent of caregiver mistreatment of adults with MS in the United States. The research team collaborated with the North American Research Committee on Multiple Sclerosis to conduct a telephone survey of 206 American adults with advanced MS living across the United States.

The preliminary study found nearly 55% of respondents disclosed undergoing some form of mistreatment since they started receiving care from a family member or friend.

The researchers do not fully understand all the risk factors for mistreatment. Their anonymous telephone survey did find, however, that family members who had to be the primary caregiver every day, day in and day out, were at higher risk of mistreating the person with MS. Other risk factors included the person with MS having higher levels of cognitive impairment or fatigue, the caregiver having a mental health diagnosis, alcohol use by the caregiver or by the person with MS, and lower levels of social support within the family.

As a multiple sclerosis specialist, Morrison-Banks has worked for years with many families affected by MS.

“Being a full-time family caregiver for someone with substantial neurological disability often presents significant challenges,” she said. “Many families take these challenges in stride, but others end up in situations of abuse and/or neglect.”

The researchers were surprised to find no published studies documenting how many people with MS have experienced mistreatment.

“We all felt it was important to study this topic in order to help families dealing with advanced MS,” Morrison-Banks said, adding the first step toward addressing the problem is to recognize that people with MS are at high risk of mistreatment.

Community service organizations such as the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America, and in Riverside County a local organization called Act for MS provide support and services for families in need.

“Our study is a good reminder for all that mistreatment is occurring out there for people with MS and other disabling conditions,” Morrison-Banks said. “Health care professionals should maintain a high index of suspicion. We can’t assume that all people with advanced MS are living in safe situations, even if they don’t bring up their concerns on their own.”

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Study reinforces drug’s potential to treat hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

Research at Washington State University sheds new light on one molecule that may be used to treat a heart condition that can lead to stroke, heart attack and other forms of heart disease.

That molecule is mavacamten. Scientists at WSU’s Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience department discovered it suppresses excessive force generated by hyper-contractile muscle cells in the human heart.

The research, published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, is especially significant for those with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a genetic condition where the left ventricle wall of the heart is enlarged. If left untreated, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy can lead to cardiac fibrosis, stroke, heart attack, heart failure, other forms of heart disease and a condition known as sudden arrhythmic death syndrome.

“Too much contraction leads to thicker, stiffer hearts, where the heart contracts so much it is unable to properly fill with blood as the heart relaxes,” said Peter Awinda, first author on the paper and scientific manager in Bertrand Tanner’s laboratory at WSU. “This ends up pushing less blood out of the heart with each heartbeat and, in turn, less blood pumped throughout the body like it is supposed to be.”

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy affects men and women equally. About 1 out of every 500 people have the disease.While there are some genetic markers to detect it, most people only discover their condition after a cardiac event that often results in a hospital visit.

The research

The project is a collaboration between the Tanner Laboratory in Pullman and Ken Campbell’s laboratory at University of Kentucky. Campbell manages a human cardiac biobank, where he ships tissue samples frozen in liquid nitrogen to Tanner, who is the principal investigator for the research.

After arriving in Pullman, the cardiac tissue was thawed, ‘skinned’ to remove the cell membrane, and trimmed to the right dimensions for an experiment.

Three micrograms of the drug, mavacamten, were then applied to some of the prepared tissue samples; other samples did not receive the drug and were labeled as controls.

To activate muscle contraction Awinda applied calcium to the tissue.

“As we increase calcium concentration it encourages contraction and the muscle goes from relaxed to contracted, and so we were testing the drug against these different levels of force,” Awinda said.

He found the drug reduces the maximal force of contraction by nearly 20 to 30% compared to the controls.

“The drug is successful because it is an inhibitor of myosin, which is one of the proteins required for the muscle contraction process,” Awinda said. “The research shows this could be a good candidate to treat hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.”

The collaborative study was made possible by organ donors and their families. The work was paid for by a $300,000 grant from the American Heart Association to Tanner and Campbell.

These initial studies helped Tanner and Campbell add an additional $2.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to support additional work in this area over the next 4 years.

Next steps

One of the research team’s next goals is to see how mice with a human mutation for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy respond to the drug.

Awinda said researching mice expressing the human gene is significant because it may provide a connection to what is seen in humans.

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Chrissy Teigen reveals she was diagnosed with partial placental abruption before her pregnancy loss

  • Chrissy Teigen had a pregnancy loss on October 1 after she was hospitalized and received multiple blood transfusions. 
  • Teigen revealed in a Medium post that doctors diagnosed her with partial placental abruption before her pregnancy loss. 
  • Partial placental abruption is when the placenta separates from the uterine wall before the baby is delivered, according to the Mayo Clinic.
  • A partial placental abruption can cut off the oxygen and nutrients to the fetus, causing heavy bleeding for to the parent. It can be deadly for both. 
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Chrissy Teigen experienced a pregnancy loss on October 1 after being hospitalized and receiving multiple blood transfusions. 

In a heart-wrenching letter published to Medium on Wednesday, Teigen revealed doctors diagnosed her with partial placental abruption before her pregnancy loss. 

"I had always had placenta problems," Teigen wrote. 

Placental abruptions can cause heavy bleeding and cut off oxygen to the baby

Teigen wrote that she had always had placental problems, but this pregnancy was her first abruption, which she and her doctors monitored closely. 

Placental abruptions occur when the placenta detaches partially or fully from the inner uterine wall, according to the Mayo Clinic. This can lead to heavy bleeding for the parent carrying the fetus, and cause oxygen and nutrients to be cut off to the baby entirely. 

About 1% of all expecting parents have abruptions, and they cause fetal death in 15% of cases.

Abruptions typically occur after the 20th week of pregnancy. Common symptoms include vaginal bleeding, abdominal pain, back pain, and contractions, according to the American Pregnancy Association. 

Teigen said she was 16 weeks pregnant when the bleeding started. 

"In bed, I bled and bled, lightly but all day, changing my own diapers every couple of hours when the blood got uncomfortable to lay in," Teigen wrote, musing about her newfound appreciation for adult diapers. 

Left untreated, abruptions like Teigen's can put both the baby and mother in danger

Though Teigen was later hospitalized to receive blood transfusions in an attempt to give Jack, her 20-week-old baby, the fluids he needed to survive, the bleeding would not stop. 

"After a couple nights at the hospital, my doctor told me exactly what I knew was coming — it was time to say goodbye. He just wouldn't survive this, and if it went on any longer, I might not either," Teigen wrote. "We had tried bags and bags of blood transfusions, every single one going right through me like we hadn't done anything at all."

Doctors induced delivery for Teigen on October 1. 

"My mom, John and I each held him and said our own private goodbyes, mom sobbing through Thai prayer," Teigen wrote. "I asked the nurses to show me his hands and feet and I kissed them over and over and over again."

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