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More than 75,000 health care workers begin strike at Kaiser Permanente

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(NEW YORK) -- More than 75,000 workers at Kaiser Permanente launched a strike Wednesday, with a coalition of unions alleging the health care system is engaging in unfair labor practices.

Employees in Virginia and Washington, D.C., walked off the job at 6 a.m. ET while those in California, Colorado, Washington and Oregon began striking at 9 a.m. ET, beginning the largest health care workers strike in U.S. history, the unions say.

Those in mid-Atlantic states will be striking for one day while those in western states will be striking for three days.

The strike includes hundreds of positions, including nurses, emergency department technicians, pharmacists, optometrists, home health aides, medical assistants, dental assistants and more.

The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, which represents more than 85,000 workers, said Kaiser is experiencing a short-staffing crisis and that unsafe levels of staffing can result in long wait times, patient neglect and missed diagnoses.

Additionally, the Coalition said it's advocating for better medical plans for retirees as well as protections against work that is outsourced and subcontracted.

The Coalition and the nonprofit organization have been bargaining since April but were unable to reach an agreement before contracts expired on Sept. 30.

In a statement to ABC News on Wednesday, Kaiser said bargaining was ongoing and some agreements had been reached.

"Both Kaiser Permanente management and Coalition union representatives are still at the bargaining table, having worked through the night in an effort to reach an agreement," the statement read. "There has been a lot of progress, with agreements reached on several specific proposals late Tuesday."

The statement continued, "We remain committed to reaching a new agreement that continues to provide our employees with market-leading wages, excellent benefits, generous retirement income plans, and valuable professional development opportunities."

Kaiser had said throughout the strike, all of its hospitals and emergency departments will remain open and contract workers have been hired to backfill striking employees.

The Kaiser strike comes amid several major labor actions in other sectors of the workforce. The United Auto Workers launched a strike on Sept. 15 against General Motors, Ford and Stellantis after failing to reach a contract agreement with the automakers.

Additionally, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) is continuing its strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) which began on July 14.

The Writers Guild of America ended its strike against AMPTP last week after almost 150 days, securing better pay and regulations for the use of artificial intelligence in certain projects.


Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

What to know about the looming health care workers strike at Kaiser Permanente

ATU Images/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- More than 75,000 Kaiser Permanente workers across the country are planning to strike Wednesday morning over what a coalition of unions allege are unfair labor practices.

The strike -- which will last for three days in most locations and include employees in California, Colorado, Maryland, Oregon, Virginia, Washington and Washington, D.C. -- would be the largest among health care workers in U.S. history, according to the unions.

The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, which represents more than 85,000 workers, and the health care system have been negotiating since April but were unable to come to an agreement before their contract expired on Sept. 30, officials said.

Workers allege in a release that the COVID-19 pandemic led to working conditions deteriorating and exacerbated a staffing crisis plaguing several health care systems.

The employees alleged Kaiser's bargaining in bad faith led to unsafe levels of staffing that resulted in long wait times, patient neglect and missed diagnoses. Additionally, the Coalition said it's advocating for better medical plans for retirees as well as protections against work that is outsourced and subcontracted.

Debru Carthan, lead radiologic technologist at Kaiser Permanente Modesto, told ABC News she and her colleagues are often doing the work of two to three individuals and it is affecting the quality of care, such as when she performs mammograms.

"We generally do mammograms every 15 minutes but with the Kaiser short staffing crisis, we are cut down to sometimes seven and a half minutes," she said. "So our workload is double; where I might have a regular schedule of 20, but now I have anywhere from 40 to 45 patients that were supposed to do an eight-hour period."

Carthan added, "As a frontline health care worker, we are listening to our patients and Kaiser executives are not listening to us about how mentally and physically and emotionally drained we are. Our patients feel it; they're not getting the quality care that they should be getting and it's not safe."

The Coalition also argues that despite being a nonprofit organization, Kaiser has reported more than $24 billion in profit over the last five years and $3 billion in profits in just the first six months of this year.

The strike will include hundreds of positions, including nurses, emergency department technicians, pharmacists, home health aides, dental assistants and more.

Kaiser Permanente said the strike is "not inevitable" but also "certainly not justified" and claims that it leads in total compensation in every market it operates in and that it offers "great benefits," including special benefits during the pandemic including for child care, housing and sick benefits.

"We need to keep working together to get through this. Because the reality is that we are still in a health care crisis in this country," the nonprofit said in a statement. "Access to care is stretched thin and it will take time to recover as an industry and stabilize the US health care system. We can only do that if we work together, management and labor, side-by-side, for one another, our patients, and our communities."

Carthan disagreed and said a strike is necessary due to the mental and physical exhaustion she said she and her colleagues are experiencing.

"As a 27-year-employee, I am disheartened by the bad faith bargaining that Kaiser is doing" she said. "It hurts to see that our patients can't get in for months. It hurts to know that our patients especially my mammogram patients with lumps and things of that nature have to sit at home and worry because of the Kaiser short staffing crisis. This is not okay."

Kaiser said its current offer is across-the-board wage over four years, including a proposed $21 minimum wage in Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon, Virginia, Washington and Washington, D.C. and a $23 minimum wage in California.

In an email to ABC News, Kaiser addressed the accusations of understaffing, saying that it's hired more than 50,000 frontline employees this year and last year and said it would reach its goal of 10,000 new hires represented by the Coalition by the end of October.

The nonprofit said it has plans to take care of patients should a strike occur and that its hospitals and emergency departments remain open. Kaiser employs more than 212,000 people throughout the U.S.

However, Kaiser said it may reschedule non-emergency and elective procedures in some locations and will send some prescriptions to outpatient pharmacies to meet any demand.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Teen athlete has hands, legs amputated after rare complication from the flu

Edgar Uribe

(NEW YORK) -- Mathias Uribe was a healthy 14-year-old kid looking forward to his freshman year of high school, during which he planned to join the cross-country team and continue to play piano, according to his parents Edgar and Catalina Uribe.

That all changed in late June, when Mathias developed flu-like symptoms, including a high fever.

"His body was red and he was also showing some rashes, which [doctors] told us was due to the high fever," Edgar Uribe told ABC News' Good Morning America, noting they took Mathias to the doctor twice. "And that was for about four to five days."

At the end of June, Mathias' condition quickly worsened, which prompted his parents to take him to a local emergency room.

There, they were told that his case of flu had worsened to pneumonia and he became hypoxic, meaning his body was not getting enough oxygen. Shortly after, Mathias, who had no preexisting health conditions, went into cardiac arrest.

"He just all of a sudden went into cardiac arrest, and he went into cardiac arrest for about six minutes," Edgar Uribe recalled. "We were asked to step out of the room. The doctors all rushed into the room try to get his vital signs."

Once doctors were able to revive Mathias, he was airlifted from their local hospital in a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee, to a larger hospital. From there, he had to be transferred again, this time to the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, where he could receive the most critical care.

For the next two weeks, Mathias was intubated and put on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine -- known as an ECMO machine -- which removes carbon dioxide from the blood and sends back blood with oxygen to the body, pumping that blood through the body and allowing the heart and lungs time to rest and heal.

Edgar Uribe recalled being told by doctors that they weren't sure if Mathias would survive, and if he did, what brain function he would have, if any.

He and his wife, also the parents of a 9-year-old son named Nicholas, described it as a "second by second" waiting game to see what would happen to their eldest son.

"Every single day, you just don't know what you're going to wake up to. You don't know what's going to happen," Edgar Uribe said. "It's been really tough, especially having Nicholas. He's 9 years old and that's his best friend."

Dr. Katie Boyle, a pediatrician and co-leader of Mathias' medical team at the Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, said that while Mathias started out with a flu diagnosis, his health deteriorated rapidly when he developed bacterial pneumonia with an invasive streptococcal infection as a complication of the flu.

From there, according to Boyle, Mathias developed streptococcal toxic shock syndrome and septic shock.

Streptococcal toxic shock syndrome is a disease where a person develops a severe immune response to toxins released from the bacteria and, as a result, their tissues and organs do not get enough oxygenated blood. Sepsis is the body's response to an infection that can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Boyle, also an assistant professor of pediatrics in the division of pediatric care at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, said both conditions are rare, especially in an otherwise healthy teenager like Mathias.

"Most of [the cases] are in patients who have problems with their immune system or are on medications that cause immune system problems," Boyle said.

Referring to Mathias, she added, "Having the flu kind of set him up for potentially having a bacterial infection, but even then it's pretty rare to get something so severe. In his case, it's like he had an immune response to the bacteria that was overwhelming."

Despite the odds, within one week of being in the intensive care unit on life support, Mathias' parents noticed his first movements.

"I noticed that he started to move his shoulders, and I said that to the doctors," said Catalina Uribe, noting that doctors began doing tests on him to see if he would respond. "They tried to say to him, 'Mathias, do you hear us?,' and I started to scream to him and to say to him, 'Mathias, show that you are here. Show them that you are here, Mathias.'"

She continued, "And he started to move all his body. That was a beautiful moment for us."

Mathias' parents and his doctors would go on to find that he had not lost any brain function, despite being in cardiac arrest for six minutes, a discovery that they all described as a miracle.

Finding a new normal in life as an amputee

More obstacles were to come, however, when it became clear that the disruption of blood flow to Mathias' hands and legs had resulted in irreversible damage.

"When he woke up and they removed the ventilator and they removed the ECMO machine after 14 days, they [told] us about the first amputation, and that maybe he was going to lose a leg," said Catalina Uribe. "After that procedure [to amputate his left leg] they said to us in a big meeting with a lot of doctors, they say the other leg doesn't look good too, and also the hands."

The Uribes said they struggled greatly thinking about what their son's future might look like without his own legs and hands.

"He runs cross country. He runs track and field in school. He plays the piano. He's a very, very, very smart kid," said Edgar Uribe. "He was going to be a freshman in high school. His dream was to go to [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] and be an engineer."

Catalina Uribe recalled crying alongside Mathias as he was told by doctors that he would need further amputations.

The teenager has undergone 14 surgeries so far in order to preserve as much function as possible while still amputating his forearms below the elbow on both arms, as well as one leg below the knee and one leg above the knee, according to Boyle.

The Uribes said they have been amazed by Mathias' strength, both physically in what his body has overcome and emotionally.

"He's really resilient. He's like, 'OK, this is what I need to get better, OK,'" said Catalina Uribe. "We don't have words to describe how strong he is. I mean, he's amazing."

Edgar Uribe said he and his wife have told Mathias how critically ill he was in order to give him perspective on how far he has come. He said they as a family are moving forward with what they call their "new life."

"We've said [to Mathias], 'You have to be grateful you are alive. Mathias Uribe, you are all here. Your heart. Your mind. You are here,'" Edgar Uribe said, continuing. "'We're going to figure this out. At the beginning, we're going to be your arms and legs. We're going to help you out ... Then you're going to have prosthetics ... You'll be able to be an engineer and fulfill all your goals.'"

The Uribes said that as Mathias continues to recover, they are hopeful he can be home in time for Christmas.

He is still in the intensive care unit while he continues to recover from surgery, but he should soon be discharged to a rehabilitation center, according to Boyle. He'll then be fitted for prosthetics to help him regain his independence.

"He's really reliant on nurses and his family for everything right now, whereas [before], he was a teenage boy who could just do everything and be more independent," Boyle said, adding, "I think for everyone caring for him, it's really hard emotionally to imagine what he's going through and to think of a young person dealing with this, and then it's also inspiring because you realize not only is he dealing with this, but he's just very determined and very strong."

The Uribes said they have been supported through Mathias' health care by not only Boyle and the team of doctors and nurses at the Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt but also by Mathias' friends and classmates, his school, their friends and family and their local community. Family friends started a GoFundMe that has raised over $300,000 to help cover the costs of upcoming and likely lifelong expenses like Mathias' prosthetics, his rehab care and renovations to make their home wheelchair-accessible.

They said they've found hope in their faith and in the belief that while the past three months have been "exhausting," that there is a purpose to what happened and that Mathias will go on to live a "beautiful life."

"We focus on what we gained in the situation," said Catalina Uribe. "Yes, we lost a lot, but Mathias is here."

"The simple fact that we could sit next to him and laugh together and tell him, 'I love you,' and just hear, 'I love you, dad. You're the best dad,' or, 'You're the best mom in the world,' that means everything to us," said Edgar Uribe.

He added, "We are certain that Mathias is going to get up from here. He's going to go to rehab. He's going to get his prosthetics, and he's going to do something really beautiful with his life."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Pennsylvania woman dies of West Nile virus, 1st case in Pittsburgh area this year

Joao Paulo Burini/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- A Pennsylvania woman in her 80s has died after contracting West Nile virus, health officials said this week.

The woman lived in Pittsburgh and is the first human case reported in Allegheny County this year, according to the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD).

Officials said the woman experienced fever and weakness and was eventually hospitalized before she passed away in late September. No other information about the patient will be released, the department said.

Earlier this summer, the ACHD said it had detected West Nile virus in Pittsburgh-area mosquitoes.

ACHD officials said in this week's announcement that they are setting up additional traps, including in the neighborhood where the patient lived, and are targeting other areas with a mosquito pesticide.

West Nile virus is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the continental United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It was first introduced in the Western Hemisphere during the summer of 1999, after people were diagnosed in New York City.

Mosquitoes typically become infected with the virus after feeding on infected birds, and then spread it to humans and other animals when biting them, the federal health agency said. West Nile virus is not spread through coughing, sneezing, interpersonal contact, or eating infected animals, such as birds.

Most people with West Nile virus do not experience symptoms, but about one in five will experience fever along with headaches, body aches, joint pain, diarrhea, vomiting or a rash. Most symptoms soon disappear, though weakness and fatigue may last for weeks or months.

About one in 150 people infected with West Nile virus will develop severe disease leading to encephalitis, which is inflammation of the brain, or meningitis, which is inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. Both conditions can be fatal.

There are currently no vaccines for West Nile virus, nor disease-specific treatments. The CDC recommends rest, fluids, and over-the-counter medications to treat the infection. Those with severe illness may need to be hospitalized and receive additional support treatments, such as intravenous fluids.

This year, Pennsylvania has reported 10 cases of West Nile virus to the CDC, according to the Allegheny County Health Department. There were two cases of West Nile virus in Allegheny County last year and three cases in 2021.

To best protect yourself from infection, or from mosquito bites in general, the CDC suggests using insect repellent, wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, treating clothing and gear with insecticide, and taking broader steps to control mosquitoes. This last step includes putting screens on windows and doors, using air conditioning, and regularly emptying containers filled with still or stagnant water.

The Allegheny County Health Department said residents who see mosquito breeding sites can report them online, or by calling (412) 350-4046.


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Why you should wait a few days before taking an at-home COVID test if you’re sick

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(NEW YORK) -- The best time to take an at-home COVID-19 test is on the fourth day of having symptoms, according to a study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Researchers looked at nearly 350 people and found that viral load peaked a few days after symptoms started.

“Viral load just refers to the amount of virus that is replicating in your body, So the more virus that is replicating, the more chance of a test turning positive,” said John Brownstein, Ph.D., chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital and an ABC News Contributor.

“Right at the beginning point of an infection, there's limited viral copies. But as the infection progresses, you'll have an increasing amount of virus replicating in your body,” he added.

The study found that at-home tests were most accurate on the fourth day of symptoms. They could still pick up some infections in the first three days but were more likely to be negative. The findings show that people should not be able to rule out COVID-19 just based on a negative test early on after symptoms start, the study authors said.

Most of the people in the study had either been vaccinated or had a previous COVID infection.

Current guidelines recommend testing immediately if you have symptoms and if it’s negative, following up at least 48 hours later with another antigen test or opting to take a PCR test as soon as possible, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“New variants may cause differences in [the] timing of viral load. It may affect the timing of when tests may be the most optimal to detect the virus,” Brownstein said.

“This study highlights the challenges of optimizing test performance and timing for the most effective action,” he added.

The federal government recently re-launched a program that allows Americans to order free COVID tests straight to their home. Tests can be ordered at CovidTests.Gov.

Some “expired” COVID tests have also had their expiration dates extended by the Food and Drug Administration. At-home tests typically have a shelf life of around 4-6 months from the day they were manufactured.

Federal health authorities continue to encourage everyone to anonymously report their at-home COVID tests to

COVID hospitalizations have declined for two consecutive weeks, following a steady uptick for about two months.

Updated COVID vaccines were recently greenlit by federal health authorities but had a rocky distribution start following reports of supply issues and insurance snags, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The issues appear to have been resolved.

“At this time, we understand that systemic technical issues have been largely, if not completely, resolved and are not limiting patient access to vaccines. Should further issues arise, we stand ready to swiftly implement system improvements,” the insurance companies said in a letter to the secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, obtained by ABC News.

Retailers also confirmed that updated COVID vaccines were now available in greater supply.

“All stores now have the supply needed to meet demand in their communities. Additional appointments have been added to our scheduler and will continue to be made available at our sites based on supply. We are updating and our app with real-time appointment availability so patients have accurate information,” Walgreens told ABC News in a statement.

“I think we're through the sort of crunch of the initial rollout where you had that sort of massive demand immediately. That has now stabilized, demand has stabilized, supply has stabilized, meaning that there's a lot of options for people out there to get access to the booster right now,” Brownstein said.

ABC News’ Cheyenne Haslett and Dr. Genevieve Jing contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Woman diagnosed with breast cancer at 34 credits clinical trial with saving her life

Courtesy Kate Korson

(NEW YORK) -- Kate Korson was living out her dream of caring for rescue horses in Colorado and preparing to celebrate her 34th birthday when she said she received a surprising diagnosis.

Just one week shy of her birthday, Korson said she was diagnosed with stage 3, triple-negative breast cancer, an aggressive and invasive form of the disease.

"How am I 34 with stage 3 breast cancer," Korson told Good Morning America, describing her thoughts at the time of her diagnosis last January. "Why is this happening to me? How is this possible?"

Triple-negative breast cancer is one of the smallest categories of breast cancer groups, only accounting for about 10-15% of all breast cancers, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Triple-negative disease is a unique class of breast cancer because it lacks receptors that drug therapies can target for treatment, making it harder to treat than other types of breast cancers. With a diagnosis of stage 3 breast cancer, that meant the disease had spread beyond Korson's breast to nearby lymph nodes or muscles.

Facing such a serious diagnosis, Korson said she chose to return to her home state of Pennsylvania to undergo treatment at the Penn Medicine Abramson Cancer Center. It is the same center where Korson said her mother was treated for colon cancer 17 years ago.

And just like her mom did in her own cancer battle, Korson told her doctors she wanted to participate in a clinical trial to give her the best shot of beating the disease and to also help other breast cancer patients.

"I want to help people in the future who are faced with this. I want things to be easier for them," she said. "The benefits of a clinical trial are that you get the most cutting-edge treatment. You get the treatment that will be available in a few years, and for me, that was overwhelmingly successful."

At the Penn Medicine Abramson Cancer Center, Korson enrolled in the I-SPY2 clinical trial, during which she received four infusions of a new type of therapy.

The treatment is faster and less toxic than the current standard of care for her type of cancer, according to Dr. Hayley Knollman, an oncologist who treated Korson.

"The standard of care for treatment of triple negative breast cancer would involve six months of intense chemotherapy, along with immunotherapy," Knollman told GMA. "And with her participating in this clinical trial, we were able to treat her very effectively for this breast cancer in half of the time and spare her a lot of toxicity."

In just a few months, Korson's tumor shrank so substantially that doctors where able to stop the treatment early and send her to surgery to remove the rest of the tumor.

"She had a great response on pathology," Dr. Lola Faynaju, the breast surgeon who treated Korson, told GMA. "When we finally got the results of her surgery back and looked at under the microscope, we were really excited to see that basically all that tumor was gone."

After undergoing a successful surgery, Korson began radiation therapy, which she will continue to undergo for several weeks.

Then, she'll take a chemotherapy pill to help keep the cancer from returning.

Although not every patient who undergoes clinical trials will have the same outcome, Korson said she hopes her story helps to both destigmatize clinical trials and raise awareness of breast cancer treatment opportunities.

Her doctors, Faynaju and Knollman, said they hope that Korson sharing her story will also raise awareness of breast cancer and remind women to prioritize their health.

"You actually can't be too young to get breast cancer," Faynaju said. "Listen to your body if you're a woman, and also know if you're high or average risk."

In the United States, mammogram screenings are recommended once every two years for women age 50 to 74 years who have an average risk of breast cancer, according to U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidelines.

Women ages 40 to 49 may choose to begin screening once every two years if they "place a higher value on the potential benefit than the potential harms" of the mammogram, according to the guidelines.

Knollman noted the prevalence of breast cancer, which is diagnosed in around 240,000 women each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"It's very likely that most people have someone in their life that they know, a friend, a colleague, a family member impacted by breast cancer," she said. "It's important for women to get to know their bodies and to raise any concerns with their doctors."

For more information about breast cancer clinical trials at Penn Medicine, visit

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Military family worries they can't afford child's lifesaving medications if government shuts down

Courtesy the Carrigg family

(WASHINGTON) -- For one military family, the consequences of a partial government shutdown would be dire: It could mean not affording treatments and medications for their child who is fighting for her life.

Austin Carrigg and her husband, Master Sgt. Joshua Carrigg, are parents of three -- their youngest, 11-year-old Melanie, has Down syndrome, a congenital heart defect and a metabolic disorder. Melanie recently had a catastrophic stroke.

Carrigg spoke with ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott and said her family pays around $300 out of pocket for medication each month. With the government on the brink of a shutdown as soon as Sunday, she said she's had sleepless nights worrying about how they'll be able to afford medications that Melanie needs.

"That's been the conversation -- how will we be able to pay for the medications? Because they're not a choice," she said.

The Alexandria, Virginia, residents are one of many military families whose household budgets could take a hit in a government shutdown. As many as 4 million workers could lose pay as a result of a shutdown -- about half of whom are military troops and personnel.

Congress is just days away from triggering a shutdown. They have until the end of the day on Saturday to reach a deal on funding. If they don't, parts of the government will shut down and members of the military will likely have to work without a paycheck.

While the military would see back pay, that may not lessen the blow to many families living paycheck to paycheck.

Melanie sees a litany of specialists including ones for brain injury and spinal rehabilitation, four eye doctors and three urologists, Carrigg said. Concern about how they can give Melanie the care she needs has her family "stuck in this loop of worry and anxiety," Carrigg said.

"The question has really become, what can we get rid of? Who can we borrow money from in order to do what we need to do in order to keep her alive?"

Carrigg said her husband has been in active duty for 21 years, and this looming government shutdown feels like a slap in the face to the many military families who support the country yet live paycheck to paycheck.

"We're a pawn in a game," she said. "If they supported us, they would make sure we knew where our next meal was coming from."

Now Carrigg is pleading with Congress to act.

"They are literally playing games with our lives. We mean nothing to them ... but they expect my husband to go fight their wars. That's not fair."

Scott asked Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., what he would say to military families like the Carriggs.

"First of all, they do get a paycheck -- it's back pay," he said.

Other lawmakers have dismissed the impact of a shutdown.

"Most of what people will see is not a shutdown. What they will experience is the slowdown," Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., told Scott.

Carrigg said she wants Congress to know there are "human lives on the line" and that her daughter is one of them.

"She's amazing. She's the bravest, strongest child you will ever meet," Carrigg said. "If she's willing to fight to stay alive … then, as the people who pay my husband to do his job, you have a responsibility to make sure her life is the best that it can be."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

New consumer warning about websites selling drugs like Ozempic, Mounjaro used for weight loss

Tetra Images/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Amid the high cost and rising popularity of drugs used for weight loss like Ozempic, Mounjaro and Wegovy, pharmacists and medical doctors are warning consumers about some websites that sell discounted versions of the drugs.

When a consumer orders a drug online, they have no way of knowing what is in the medication, among other things, according to Dr. Konstantinos Spaniolas, director of the metabolic weight loss center at Stony Brook Medicine.

"Even if you assume that the medication is the correct substance, if this is not processed correctly and it's not sterile, there are infectious concerns," Spaniolas told ABC News' Becky Worley. "People really have to be careful because this leap of faith of ordering something that you are self-injecting at home is a big problem."

He added, "I personally, would not expose myself to that risk."

Ozempic, Mounjaro and Wegovy each require a prescription, and are not sold over the counter.

Ozempic and Mounjaro are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat Type 2 diabetes, but some doctors prescribe the medication "off-label" for weight loss, as is permissible by the FDA. Wegovy, which contains the same main ingredient as Ozempic, is FDA-approved for weight loss.

Insurance coverage for Ozempic and Wegovy varies, depending on everything from a person's medical diagnosis to where they live and their insurance plan.

Without health insurance coverage, the medications can cost over $1,000 per month.

Because of the high demand and high price for the drugs, some websites have started offering the drugs to consumers online.

"There's a huge percent of the population who is looking for these medications with limited access, whether … it's from insurance or availability," Spaniolas said. "Patients are trying to get the medications ordered online, but people have to be very careful."

Dr. Al Carter, executive director of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, told ABC News that many of the websites selling drugs like Ozempic and Mounjaro appear to be doing so illegally by operating without a license and by not requiring a prescription for the medications.

"There are around 30 to 35,000 pharmacies that are acting illegally," Carter said. "Our Digital Health team finds, on any given day, around 20 pharmacies, new pharmacies that are operating illegally."

Other unlicensed websites may promise a compounded version of a drug like Ozempic, which the FDA has warned against. Compound versions of drugs are made for individual patients using raw ingredients.

In June, the FDA warned consumers it had received reports of adverse events after people took semaglutide -- the active ingredient in both Ozempic and Wegovy -- that came from a compounding pharmacy. It did not specify the number of reports or what the adverse events were.

The FDA also said in the same warning that some compounding pharmacies claiming to sell semaglutide might instead be selling other formulations of the chemical, like semaglutide sodium and semaglutide acetate. Those haven't been shown to be safe or effective, according to the FDA.

Also in June, Novo Nordisk, the pharmaceutical company that makes Ozempic and Wegovy, filed multiple lawsuits against certain medical spas, weight loss and wellness clinics, and compounding pharmacies for "the unlawful marketing and sales of non-FDA approved counterfeit and compounded semaglutide products claiming to contain semaglutide," including allegations of false advertising, trademark infringement and unlawful sales of non FDA-approved compounded products.

Red flags for consumers

Justin Macy, who leads the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy's Digital Health team, said one red flag for consumers to look for is websites that show photos of the drugs with unique United States-drug identification numbers, but then claim to ship out of Canada, which is illegal.

In other instances, websites posing as pharmacies may promote brand name versions of the drugs.

"The reason ... that this looks so legitimate is because this is the actual Wegovy website," Macy said of one example. "They totally just ripped off the manufacturer's website."

More red flags, according to both Carter and Macy, are websites that do not require a prescription in order to obtain the drugs, and websites that offer the drugs for well below the market price.

The FDA has resources on its website for consumers to use to determine whether an online pharmacy is safe, as well as a tool to search for state-licensed online pharmacies.

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy also has a website, Safe.Pharmacy/a>, where consumers can verify online websites.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

An FDA committee said one type of nasal decongestant doesn't work, but experts say here's what does

Jennifer A Smith/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Over-the-counter agents to treat upper respiratory symptoms like nasal congestion make up a multi-billion-dollar business. But recently, a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee ruled that oral phenylephrine, commonly found in some over-the-counter, or OTC, products like Dayquil, Mucinex, and Sudafed PE, does not work as a decongestant.

The decision has left many consumers confused when searching for relief among all the available products on store shelves.

"It really is stressful for a lot of consumers," board-certified pulmonary critical care and sleep medicine physician Dr. Raj Dasgupta, MD, chief medical advisor at Sleep Advisor, told ABC News.

The Food and Drug Administration said in a public statement that the product will stay on the market while they review the available evidence.

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which represents manufacturers of over-the-counter-drugs, called the decision "disappointing" and offered to work with the FDA on the matter.

"We encourage FDA, before making any regulatory determination, to be mindful of the totality of the evidence supporting this long-standing OTC ingredient, as well as the significantly negative unintended consequences associated with any potential change in oral PE's regulatory status," CHPA president and CEO Scott Melville said in the statement.

Dasgupta says that taking oral phenylephrine isn't dangerous and some people may believe it works for them, so those products don't necessarily need to be thrown out due to a safety concern, but better options may be available.

For consumers buying new products, ABC News spoke to two experts to provide four tips to help find the right solution for sinus and cold symptoms this season:

Read the label, be intentional about purchase

Dasgupta explained that many people don't actually know what products they are buying and that many products contain different medications that each treat different symptoms.

"If you are going to the store to pick up over the counter medications, you have to ask the question, 'Why? Why are you going there,'" Dasgupta said.

Cold symptoms may include nasal congestion, but people may also have muscle and body aches or a cough they want to treat and there are specific medications that target these other symptoms like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or dextromethorphan.

Greg Castelli, Pharm.D., director of academic and clinical pharmacy in the department of family medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, says that sometimes less is more and recommends that people buying new products should consider only buying the one indicated for their symptom.

"When you're walking down those aisles, you'll see that there are products that have three and four medications in combination with each other. And you just may not need to have all those individual medications," Castelli said.

Castelli says that oral pseudoephedrine can be found behind the pharmacy counter without a prescription and nasal sprays that contain phenylephrine are both effective agents for nasal congestion.

Certain medications that can be used to treat common cold symptoms such as diphenhydramine or Benadryl, a type of antihistamine, may also provide an added benefit of helping people fall asleep in addition to treating nasal inflammation, but should not be abused or overused.

Experts warn that all of these medications do have risks and side effects so people who have underlying medical problems should talk to their doctor about which one is right for them, or which ones should be avoided.

Some remedies don't require medication to help

Experts say that rest, relaxation and hydration are undervalued when combating colds, but they do help.

"I think that when you're feeling sick, it's always a good time to re-address some of those sleep hygiene things," Dasgupta said.

Dasgupta recommends putting technology away before bed and making sure the room is cool and dark where you sleep at night, and if congestion is a problem, sleeping with the head of the bed elevated or on pillows can help.

Soup is good for the soul and sinuses

Experts say steam can help the sinuses, which can come from a hot shower or even from some comfort foods like chicken-noodle soup.

"If you're gonna smell something, why not some nice noodles and some chicken? … The steam going up your nose is gonna be wonderful," Dasgupta said. "That's one you could do like just really briefly like maybe in the morning or when you get home from work."

Antibiotics are almost never the answer for the common cold

"We know that a lot almost 90% of these infections are caused by a virus and so antibiotics just aren't what's going to help you here," Castelli said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says most colds are self-limiting viruses that do not require treatment.

"I cannot emphasize enough that we don't take antibiotics for viruses," Dasgupta said.

Dasgupta says there are circumstances when a cold-like illness does need to be treated with antibiotics if it's due to a bacterial infection, but antibiotics should only be taken if prescribed by a healthcare provider.

Bonus: A little bit of honey can help a cough

Honey is one household product that can relieve cough symptoms and is safe for anyone above age 1, so this is a good option for some kids when cough suppressants aren't recommended for them.

"Anyone over the age of one honey can be a really helpful effective way to help treat that cough," ABC News medical correspondent Dr. Darien Sutton told Good Morning America.

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Free at-home COVID tests from the US government are back. Here's how to get them

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(WASHINGTON) -- The Biden administration this week relaunched the website where Americans can once again order free at-home COVID tests.

The website had been shut down since June but came back online just as updated COVID vaccines rolled out across the country.

Here's how to order the tests and why you should not throw out old ones.

How to order free COVID test kits through USPS

Visit and you will see instructions directing you to a website run by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to order a kit that comes with four tests.

You don't have to pay for shipping. Just provide your name and address to place the order.

The Federal Trade Commission sent out an alert that government employees will never call, text or email Americans for information on receiving the tests. Credit card information, bank account information and Social Security number are not required to place an order.

If you live in a building or a multi-unit residence or with roommates, consider putting your apartment number ahead of your street address to avoid receiving an error message that the address has already been used.

How long will it take for the free COVID test kits to arrive?

Tests kits will take about one week from when the order was placed, but could take longer due to shipping delays.

If you would like an email confirmation and USPS delivery updates, you can enter your email address when placing the order.

Why not to throw out if they are past their expiration date

Some of the test boxes may arrive with an expiration date that has passed but the Food and Drug Administration warns against throwing them away.

Earlier in the pandemic, COVID tests kits were rolled out typically with a shelf life of about four to six months due to unknowns about how long they would be effective, experts said.

However, the FDA extended expiration dates based on additional data from manufacturers.

To check for an extended expiration date, visit the FDA webpage for at-home tests, which indicates the brands that have an extended date and provides a PDF for each test with new expiration dates.

You can find the lot number on the package, near the expiration date, and then check the PDF to see if it's among those dates.

Where else can I get free COVID tests?

Since the public health emergency ended on May 11 of this year, access to free testing has dwindled. There are, however, still some avenues to access no-cost testing.

For those who are uninsured -- as long as they are symptomatic or have been exposed to COVID -- they can visit the CDC website, which lists sites for free testing at Increasing Community Access to Testing (ICATT) locations.

Free testing may also differ by geographic location. In New York City, for example, free testing is available at NYC Health + Hospitals locations and community care clinics. Free rapid tests are also available at public libraries.

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Mom says bullying led to her daughter's suicide. Now she's trying to help save other kids

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(NEW YORK) -- Brittany Tichenor remembers her daughter Isabella, whom she called Izzy, as the "sweetest person" she has ever met, someone who was resilient and amazing, a 10-year-old child whose eyes were "big and brown."

Those memories of her daughter as a vibrant fifth-grader make it harder, she says, to reconcile that her daughter died by suicide nearly two years ago, on Nov. 6, 2021.

"I just didn't know how bad it was," Tichenor told "Good Morning America" of Izzy's mental health struggles, which she said were a result of bullying. "I think she made a temporary decision in a moment of hurt, and I'll never forget that."

Tichenor said it was only after her daughter's death that she heard from other kids at her daughter's local public elementary school in their home state of Utah the full extent of the bullying she says Izzy endured.

"I knew part of it, and I kept calling the school. I kept calling the district. But I didn't know the severity of it," she said. "I told her, 'You can tell me anything,' and she normally did, but I kind of feel like she was trying to protect me. I just wish she had told me."

Tichenor said on some days, Izzy, who she said was autistic and was one of the few Black students in her school, would open up to her about the taunts she said she endured from her classmates and even some of her teachers.

"I know one thing, she was just tired of the kids at school," Tichenor said. "That's what she kept telling me. She said, 'They keep me making fun of the dot on my head.'"

Bullying in schools has been on the rise in recent years, according to a survey of over 130,000 kids ages 9 to 18 released in August by the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

According to the survey, 40% of youth say they were bullied on school property in the past year -- up from 37% in 2022 -- while 18% of youth say they have experienced cyberbullying.

At the same time, data is also showing a growing mental health crisis among young people in the United States.

Approximately 5.8 million children in the U.S. had diagnosed anxiety between 2016 and 2019, and approximately 2.7 million kids had diagnosed depression in that same time period, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with recent years showing rising numbers of diagnoses for both mental health conditions.

In 2021, a report from U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy warned of a growing mental health crisis among young people. The report, issued during the coronavirus pandemic, cited statistics including a 51% increase in emergency room visits for suspected suicide attempts among girls and a doubling of anxiety and depression symptoms reported across genders.

That same year, suicide was the second leading cause of death for adolescents ages 10-14 and young adults ages 20-34 in the U.S., according to the CDC.

Tichenor said she was in the process of moving Izzy to a new school when her daughter died.

"I didn't want the next school she went to, to go and get bullied there," Tichenor said. "By the time I thought I found the perfect school, she had already took her life. I can't help but blame myself because I wish I would have gotten to it sooner."

In August, Tichenor and the school district Izzy attended, Davis School District, announced a $2 million settlement amid allegations that Izzy was bullied and that teachers and administrators had not stopped the reported harassment.

"Nobody knows the trauma of a parent who loses a kid," Tichenor said of what she's endured the past two years.

Correlation between bullying and suicide

When it comes to the connection between bullying and suicide, data shows there is a correlation, but experts say more research remains to be done.

The CDC defines bullying as "unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance." Bullying, the agency notes, is also a behavior that is repeated or can be repeated over time.

Both young people who report bullying others and those who report being bullied are at increased risk for suicide-related behavior, according to the CDC.

In recent years, the correlation between bullying and suicide has increased in the public eye as several families, including Tichenor, have spoken out publicly after losing a child to suicide.

In July, the parents of a 12-year-old girl who died by suicide after experiencing bullying reached a $9.1 million settlement in a wrongful-death lawsuit against their local New Jersey school district, their lawyer said at the time.

In May, an elite boarding school, also in New Jersey, released a statement publicly admitting its failure to protect a 17-year-old student who died by suicide in 2022 after experiencing bullying.

That student's mother, Elizabeth Reid, told "Good Morning America" at the time, "What we've realized from our situation is that [bullying] can lead to death. This is a very serious issue. And the internet absolutely makes it even much worse for kids today."

In the nearly two years since Izzy's death, Tichenor, a mom of five, has made it her mission to make sure no other parent endures the loss of a child due to bullying or suicide.

She launched a nonprofit organization, Izzy's Village, that she described as a place for young people, particularly young people of color, to find support for bullying and mental health struggles.

Though she said she feels like a piece of her died when Izzy died, Tichenor said she continues to share her family's story also as a way to help educate other parents.

"I want people to know her story because I want other parents to check their kids on bullying," she said. "It's not OK."

Can an app help stop bullying and improve mental health?

In Utah, where Tichenor still lives, health officials are putting their hope into meeting kids where they already are -- on their phones -- to help them cope with mental health struggles.

SafeUT is an app where young people have access 24/7 to chat with a mental health professional and can submit a tip about mental health or bullying concerns regarding their peers.

The app was created by legislators, educators and public health officials in response to data showing that suicide is the leading cause of death for youth and young adults in Utah, according to Rachel Kay Lucynski, director of community crisis services with the Huntsman Mental Health Institute at the University of Utah.

Lucynski said the app now serves more than 885,000 elementary, middle and high school, and college students across the state.

The app saw record usage last year, with more than 1 million messages recorded with mental health professionals and over 9,000 confidential tips submitted, according to Lucynski, who said the tips are triaged and responded to by behavioral health specialists as well.

The most commonly reported tip pertains to suicide, typically a young person reporting hearing a friend talk about hurting themselves. The second most commonly reported tip is general mental health concerns, followed by bullying, according to Lucynski.

"We know that students who even witness bullying, not just experience bullying, can be traumatized by that, and it can increase their level of mental health and behavioral health issues," Lucynski said, adding, "It obviously can have catastrophic impacts on someone's feelings of self worth, feelings of safety at school, and in really, unfortunately, extremely tragic situations can result in a student taking their own life or attempting to take their own life because of the bullying that they're experiencing."

Lucynski noted that parents and educators may also use the SafeUT app to report mental health concerns based on changes in kids' behaviors.

"We also want to remind parents that if they're seeing changes in their student's behavior, if they're seeing that they're withdrawn, that they're not as interested or engaged in social activities, or friends or extracurriculars like they used to be, or they have an extreme aversion to going to school ... there could be something else going on," she said. "So, we want parents to know that it's important that they talk to their students at home about what they're experiencing."

After losing her own daughter, Tichenor is now working with SafeUT to help launch an anti-bullying campaign and a parent advisory council.

"I just want parents to know this is serious," Tichenor said. "If as parents, we don't intervene or step in, this kind of stuff will keep happening, and I don't want it to happen to anybody else."

Tichenor said that looking back on her own experience, she wishes she had followed her parental instinct and sought help sooner.

"If [children] tell you something, that they're getting bullied, do what you need to do to protect them," she said. "And make sure you're there as a support 24/7."

Tichenor said parents should also make an effort to know who their kids' friends are at school, and to talk to their kids at home.

"Talk to them. Talk to them until they're blue in the face," Tichenor said. "Because whether your kid is doing the bullying, or they're the one getting bullied, it needs to be talked about."

Mental health experts say that when it comes to talking about mental health and even suicide with kids, more is better, noting that instead of putting the idea of suicide in a child's mind by talking about it, you're letting your child know that they can open up to you about their feelings.

SafeUT offers resources for parents on its website about ways to talk about mental health, suicide and bullying with kids, including a document with ideas for "conversation starters" on those topics.

Tichenor said that in addition to parents talking with their kids, the willingness of a parent like Tichenor who has lost a child to suicide to speak out and share her story is just as impactful.

"I think it's very easy to read news stories or watch things online and think, 'Gosh, that's horrible, but it won't happen to me,'" Lucynski said. "But we really all need to stay alert and vigilant as a community for those of us who are suffering and how we can be that hope and that light for someone in a dark moment."

She added, "Not everyone who has experienced suicide loss is at a point in their grieving process where they're able to talk about it, so the fact that Brittany is able to share what the impact has been on her and make people more aware of this issue is extremely important ... and definitely has the potential to save lives."

If you or someone you know are experiencing suicidal, substance use or other mental health crises please call or text 988. You will reach a trained crisis counselor for free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also go to


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Almost half of US adults plan to get new COVID-19 vaccine, survey finds


(NEW YORK) -- Nearly half of all adults in the United States plan to get the newly recommended COVID-19 vaccine, according to results from a survey released Wednesday.

The latest poll conducted by the KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor found that 23% of U.S. adults say they will "definitely" get the updated booster, 23% say they will "probably" get it, while 19% say they will "probably not" get it and 33% say they will "definitely not" get it.

The new shots from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which are formulated to target newer variants of COVID-19, are recommend for everyone 6 months and older, but the survey found that the majority of U.S. parents say they aren’t planning to get it for their children.

Consistent with prior trends as earlier vaccines were being rolled out during the COVID-19 pandemic, the poll found that Democrats and people at least 65 years old are most likely to say they would "definitely" or "probably" get the updated booster.

The share of the American public who intend to get the new vaccine is higher than those who have received previous shots, but not as much as initial vaccine uptake back in 2020, according to the survey.

The poll results came as COVID-19 hospitalizations in the U.S. surpassed 20,000 for the first time since mid-March. However, recent data has indicated that the updated boosters could offer additional protection against currently circulating variants and especially protect against severe disease and death, particularly for those who are elderly or immune compromised.

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What one year in space does to the body as NASA astronaut Frank Rubio returns home


(NEW YORK) -- After 371 days in space, NASA astronaut Frank Rubio is returning to Earth Wednesday.

The 47-year-old broke the record for the longest time spent in space by a U.S. astronaut earlier this year after his original six-month mission at the International Space Station was extended by an additional six months.

Rubio told ABC News' Good Morning America in August that he will be examined by a medical team upon his arrival and he may need some time to readapt to Earth's gravity and rebalance his equilibrium for everyday tasks such as walking and standing upright.

Experts say spending a prolonged period in space -- especially one year -- comes with many changes to human physiology and psychology.

One of the biggest changes comes from spending time in microgravity, which allows astronauts to float inside a spacecraft or outside during spacewalks.

During this period, there is a decrease of muscle mass -- due to decreased use and lack of stimulus through exercise equipment -- and bone loss.

Dr. Jennifer Fogarty, chief scientific officer at Baylor College of Medicine's Translational Research Institute for Space Health, told ABC News that the biggest changes with bone and muscles loss occur in the first couple of months of a mission and then level off.

She said one of the areas that she sees crew members struggle with upon returning to Earth is neurovestibular challenges, or how the body maintains a sense of position and balance, as gravity changes.

"How do you coordinate movement like walking, which you haven't done for a long period of time, and then the idea of balance? When you put those two together, it can kind of create a little bit of a precarious situation and something that's very well-monitored with the crew members when they land on Earth," she said.

The longer the mission, the longer it can take to acclimate, Fogarty said. Four- to six-month missions make take two to three days. Longer missions would likely take even longer.

Additionally, because of the weightlessness in microgravity, blood and cerebrospinal fluid often shift upward from the lower extremities to the head and eyes, which is believed to cause eye and brain structural changes.

This is a phenomenon known as Spaceflight Associated Neuro-ocular Syndrome and long-duration astronauts may experience a variety of changes including an upward shift of the brain or eye swelling and blurry vision.

Our veins have valves in them so blood doesn't flow backwards when we stand up, but when we're in a weightless environment, there's a big fluid shift from the body up into the head," explained Dr. Michael Decker, co-director of the Center for Aerospace Physiology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. "Some of this increased intracranial pressure can actually impact the eye and lead to visual impairment. Sometimes when astronauts land, that visual impairment does not necessarily resolve."

"That is one of the most foreign things biologically that the body has to deal with," Fogarty, who is also the former chief scientist of the NASA Human Research Program, added. "I think that is the one where I would say crew members who do extended durations do get much greater monitoring, because we really don't know what to anticipate."

There are also physical and psychological effects that come from being isolated and in a closed environment for a long duration.

Research has shown that this type of environment, regardless of whether someone is in space, can lead to behavioral changes and cause fatigue, stress and sleep loss.

Fogarty said that there are also changes to the immune system during this time, often a result of chronic stress, which is why it's important to create as healthy of an environment as possible for astronauts going on missions.

Scientists will also likely look to see if Rubio has any changes to his genes, including those related to the immune system, as occurred with astronaut Scott Kelley when he spent 340 days in space in 2015 and 2016.

Decker said 90% of these changes were resolved within a few months of Kelley’s return so it will be interesting to see if the same thing occurs with Rubio.

Additionally, "isolation creates a stressor and another sensory deprivation issue," she said. "Anywhere where you don't have the smell of the grass or the rain or colors to look at, look at the water versus the mountains, like when your choices are very limited."

She added that while space is a difficult environment, the changes astronauts experience are not unexpected and that NASA teams make sure they are prepared extensively before going into space.

"We can select people, train them and make sure they're very healthy before they go," Fogarty said. "We do the research to understand where we can make different choices with the environments we build for these people to live and work in, so that we are not tapping into those reserves ... and compromising them."

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Genetically modified mosquitoes and vaccines -- what you need to know about dengue fever

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(NEW YORK) -- More than three million cases of dengue fever have been reported in the Americas this year with over 882 in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is the second highest annual rate in the Americas since 1980.

Dengue is spread through mosquitoes, which thrive at hotter temperatures and humid conditions. These conditions have become more frequent in the past few years as a result of record heat and extreme weather, which results in more cases of dengue, according to Nature.

Experts say the rise in cases are a "canary in a coal mine" for what is to come as we see changes in rainfall and temperature patterns.

The cases in the U.S. have increased from 814 in 2021 to 2,261 in 2022, and over 50% of these cases have been locally acquired in the United States. The disease has been circulating in California, Florida, Texas and New York, but cases in the U.S. have been growing over the past few years, and are expected to rise with climate change and urbanization.

"This is concerning," says Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, infectious disease physician and chair of the Infectious Disease Society of the Americas Global Health.

The growing number of cases are a signal that public health officials in the U.S. and around the world need to invest more resources into tracking and protecting against dengue, Kuppalli says. Officials have not been tracking as much as they should because resources were allocated to COVID-19 management, she says.

"A lot of people think that the United States is impervious to mosquito-borne illness," says Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

"That’s just not true," she added.

Here is what you need to know about dengue fever including what it is, signs, symptoms, treatment and how to prevent it:

What is dengue fever?

Dengue fever is a virus spread to people through Aedes mosquitos. These mosquitoes also spread Zika, chikungunya and other viruses. A person can be infected with dengue multiple times in their life, according to the CDC.

What are the symptoms?

Most people infected with dengue will have mild or no symptoms. If symptoms occur, they usually appear between 4-10 days after a mosquito bite and last for 2-7 days, according to the World Health Organization. People typically get better in 1-2 weeks. Symptoms include headache, high fever, muscle and joint pain, nausea, vomiting, swollen glands and rash.

Mild symptoms can be confused with other illnesses that can cause fever, aches, pains and/or rash. In rare cases, dengue can be severe.

"People do not realize that it can cause serious infection or lead to death," Kuppalli says.

Severe dengue is a medical emergency and can get worse rapidly. Those who have had an infection before are more likely to develop a severe infection. People with severe dengue may have severe abdominal pain, rapid breathing, increased thirst, blood in vomit or stool, pale and cold skin, persistent vomiting, blood in gums or nose and weakness.

Those who have severe symptoms should seek medical attention right away.

There are no antiviral treatments for dengue, Adalja says.

People are treated with fluids and medications that can control pain and bring down a fever, like acetaminophen. The CDC and WHO recommend avoiding aspirin and ibuprofen, which can increase the risk of bleeding.

Is there a vaccine?

A dengue vaccine is approved for use in children between ages 9-16 with previous laboratory-confirmed dengue infection. They must also be living in areas where dengue occurs frequently or continuously. That includes some areas like the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands.

"It’s really beneficial in those individuals who have had one type of dengue before," says Dr. Adalja.

The vaccine is not approved for Americans who are simply traveling to areas with high levels of dengue.

How do we prevent it?

If you are traveling or living in an area with dengue, the best way to prevent infection is by preventing mosquito bites, according to the CDC. Steps you can take include, wearing protective clothing, applying insect repellent with DEET, Picaridin or IR3535, using mosquito nets and using window screens.

Some regions take steps to control the mosquito population by removing places where mosquitoes lay eggs, killing eggs with larvicides and killing the adult population with adulticides. Others use methods include the use of genetically modified mosquitoes, which have been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use in some counties in Texas and Florida.

These mosquitoes have a gene that prevents female mosquitoes from living to adulthood, so they can’t continue to reproduce -- which reduces the population.

"Genetically modified mosquitoes are an important tool," Dr. Adalja says.

The EPA says that use of genetically modified mosquitoes poses no risk to people, animals or the environment.

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Scientists say some tests may be able to identify the markers of prolonged COVID symptoms in the future

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(NEW YORK) -- While there is no specific test to determine if someone is experiencing long COVID, a new study published in Nature used blood tests to find new insight into what biological markers are associated with this collection of mysterious conditions reported by millions of Americans.

Researchers used machine learning to help analyze immune markers and hormone levels in 273 adult participants at Mount Sinai and Yale University and compared those with and without long COVID symptoms at least one year after having COVID-19.

Long COVID, defined in this study as persistent symptoms more than six weeks after infection, was associated with lower levels of a hormone called cortisol and had some distinct differences in certain immune cells and inflammatory markers circulating in the blood.

These levels are identified through blood tests, but this is not a blood test that specifically tests for long COVID.

"[These results] suggests some potential mechanisms leading to long COVID that might be amenable to treatment. It also may help in identifying patients with long COVID," Dr. Alison Morris, division chief of pulmonary, allergy, critical care and sleep medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, told ABC News.

"I think one of the most important findings of the paper is that it validates the symptoms people have by finding biological differences between them and healthy controls," Morris said.

"It is a truly remarkable study," Dr. Shari Barnett Brosnahan, M.D., M.Sc., a COVID-19 researcher who was not involved in the study and assistant professor of the division of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at New York University Langone Health System, told ABC News.

Brosnahan does note that "it's a limited analysis that they did, and I think that there's still more work to be done."

This study was done on relatively few people, so researchers say more studies are needed to better understand the significance of these results more broadly. Still, they say this study helps scientists get one step closer to knowing more about long COVID. If there are biological markers that are specific to long COVID, it could help confirm a diagnosis or help target treatments.

This research joins a large movement to gain more understanding of long COVID conditions and efforts to provide services to those affected, including efforts by the Biden administration which recently announced a new Office of Long Covid Research.

Long COVID is a term used to characterize signs, symptoms and conditions that persist for at least four weeks after getting infected with COVID-19 that may last months to years, according to the working definition developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

These symptoms can range in severity and impact multiple organ systems in the body. Common complaints include fatigue, brain fog, sleep problems, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, dizziness upon standing, and stomach issues, according to the CDC.

In July 2021, long COVID was recognized as a condition that could qualify as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act if it "substantially limits major life activities." Research that may help doctors make a diagnosis could be crucial for those most severely impacted to receive these necessary services.

"I also hope that continuing to have these studies that show objective evidence help validate people and understanding [of] their long COVID," Brosnahan said. "And help us as a medical community validate the disease of long COVID a little bit more."

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