www.charlestondailymail.com Health http://www.charlestondailymail.com Daily Mail feed en-us Copyright 2015, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers Summit to focus on drug addiction in W.Va. http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150521/ARTICLE/150529858 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150521/ARTICLE/150529858 Thu, 21 May 2015 07:57:54 -0400

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A West Virginia state delegate says he'll be holding a summit in Charleston that focuses on drug addiction in the state.

Del. Chris Stansbury says the summit will be held June 1 and discuss how drug overdoses are affecting the state.

The event will take place at the theater in the West Virginia Culture Center. It will feature addiction experts, elected and appointed officials and members of the faith-community.

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Tick bite disease leads to years of hardship http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150519/DM01/150519172 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150519/DM01/150519172 Tue, 19 May 2015 20:24:25 -0400 By Charlotte Ferrell Smith Julie Hefner-Ferrell was unaware that she had been bitten by a tick while vacationing in Hardy County three years ago.

It took a year for an official diagnosis of Lyme disease and she is still being treated for symptoms.

"I hope people do take precautions because it is a terrible thing," said Hefner-Ferrell, 44, an accountant in the state Treasurer's Office.

She outlined a long and exhausting journey that has improved but is not over yet.

She returned home from vacation at the end of June of 2012 and a few weeks later noticed a red spot on the upper part of one arm. Initially, she thought it was just a scratch. However, the spot began increasing in size and took on the shape of a bull's-eye.

As time went on, she was treated for various symptoms with no official diagnosis. There were times her illness mirrored other diseases. Also, symptoms were spread out and often not linked together. She suffered headaches, body aches, night sweats, random fevers, popping in her knees, numbness and tingling in her hands, stomach pains, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, muscle weakness, fatigue, and concentration issues.

"I would go to work and forget how to do things I did every day," she said. "I thought I was dying and nobody could figure out why."

After months of suffering, she began researching her symptoms as a whole and discovered that linked together they pointed to Lyme disease.

"I am no doctor but I had been tested for everything else," she said.

Further tests were positive for Lyme disease as well as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

"It was one year to diagnosis," she said. "I am still being treated. It is a long process. I was on several rounds of antibiotics. I take high doses of vitamin C and six supplements that are mostly vitamins. It is chronic. There really isn't a cure. The idea is to boost the immune system. It's a longer process than I would have thought."

She is thankful for the support of friends, co-workers and family. She lives in Charleston with husband, Robbie, who has been very supportive.

She sees a local doctor and travels to Virginia three or four times a year to see a specialist. Insurance does not cover all expenses.

"A lot of expenses have been out of pocket," she said. "It is a struggle. It is what it is. There isn't much we can do."

However, she remains optimistic.

"My good days are more than bad days," she said. "I think I am 90 percent there. Now I have more energy. Hopefully, I can suppress the disease and put it in remission. I don't know why I got this but it has enabled me to see doctors who will go above and beyond to help patients.

"I hope people take precautions," she said. "Pay attention to your body. If you have flu-like symptoms after going into the woods, talk to your doctor."

Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at charlotte@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1246.

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W.Va. agency to participate in national family aid academy http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150518/ARTICLE/150519336 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150518/ARTICLE/150519336 Mon, 18 May 2015 09:57:42 -0400 CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia will participate in a national policy academy aimed at improving a program that assists needy families.

Department of Health and Human Resources commissioner Nancy Exline says West Virginia is one of seven sites selected to participate in the Family Stability National Policy Academy.

The other participants are Connecticut, Colorado, Maryland, North Carolina, Ramsey County in Minnesota, Utah and Washington. Each participant will develop and implement improvements to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

West Virginia Works provides training assistance, job search support and other employment-related services through the program.

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Marshall to expand wellness in arts program http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150515/ARTICLE/150519486 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150515/ARTICLE/150519486 Fri, 15 May 2015 11:56:06 -0400

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) - The Marshall University Center for Wellness in the Arts is expanding the services it offers.

The university says in the coming year it will offer performance anxiety workshops with health scientists, injury prevention sessions with certified athletic trainers and nutrition training with registered dietitians.

The university has provided health and wellness education to its performing arts students through a collaboration between the College of Arts and Media and the College of Health Professions since 2014.

The center also plans to offer agility and mobility training with exercise scientists, vision training to improve reaction times in performances and vocal education.

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Report: Closed clinic's infractions included errors, guns http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150511/ARTICLE/150519839 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150511/ARTICLE/150519839 Mon, 11 May 2015 19:22:30 -0400 CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Unsecured guns and medication errors were among the infractions found at Charleston pain clinic shut down by the state, a state inspection report shows.

The Charleston Gazette obtained the report through a Freedom of Information Act request. The newspaper says the report shows that Hope Clinic’s Charleston facility employed former police officers, who had no medical training, to issue prescriptions for pain pills, review patient charts and take patients’ blood pressure and weight.

Medication errors cited by the report included prescriptions given to the wrong patients and prescriptions with incorrect dosage information.

The former police officers used automated machines to print prescription slips for patients, many of whom never saw a doctor. The clinic’s patients included people who traveled from Kentucky, Virginia and Ohio to obtain pain pill prescriptions, according to the report.

The former officers routinely carried concealed weapons. One left a loaded .38-caliber handgun in a canvas bag in an unlocked office, according to the report.

“It’s a safety issue,” Marra said. “There are concerns when there are narcotics being prescribed and guns on site. The weapons weren’t secured.”

George Manahan, a spokesman for Hope Clinic, said the clinic already had decided to close the Charleston facility because of the resignation of a doctor who also had an ownership interest.

Hope Clinic is challenging the state’s order to close another clinic in Beaver in Raleigh County.

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Beloved 'Dr. Al' passes on too soon, leaves many admirers http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150511/DM06/150519866 DM06 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150511/DM06/150519866 Mon, 11 May 2015 16:56:43 -0400 By Charlotte Ferrell Smith A young doctor who recently passed away had a positive impact upon patients as well as colleagues.

Dr. Alaa Mousattat, who was known as Dr. Al, died on April 19 at the age of 40. Friends and family will gather from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Woman's Club of Charleston, 1600 Virginia St. E., as a tribute and to share memories.

"His untimely death was devastating," said Dr. Eric Shouldis, medical director for the Charleston Area Medical Center Hospitalist Program. "He will be truly missed. He set an example for all of us to give more of ourselves. Most of us won't live up to the standards he set."

Mousattat, whose specialty was internal medicine, juggled duties at CAMC as well as the Raleigh Boone Medical Center. He saw patients at CAMC's Memorial and General hospitals as well as a Whitesville clinic.

Dr. Hoda Kasem, a colleague and friend, said he worked long hours and only took time off two weekends a month.

"He would work 12 to 15 hours and go home at 11 at night," she said. "He did not want to leave his work."

He always offered to do more and never complained, she said.

A native of Aleppo, Syria, he graduated in 1998 from University of Tishreen in Lattakia, Syria. He then moved to the United States to further his education and completed his internal medicine residency at CAMC.

"He graduated in 2004 and started working at the Boone (County) clinic," Kasem said.

In 2010, he asked to join the CAMC Hospitalist Program while also working at the clinic. He alternated weeks between Whitesville and Charleston and only took days off every other weekend.

"He took great care of his patients," Shouldis said. "He was known as Dr. Al. He was one of the most giving people I ever met."

As a hospitalist, a doctor sees patients while they are hospitalized. These patients often have other regular physicians who may be in other counties. Mousattat had a gift for establishing a rapport with patients.

"His demeanor was perfect," Shouldis said. "He was able to build that rapport and meet needs,"

Shouldis said Mousattat was a humble man who led by example.

"He was compassionate and giving," Shouldis said. "You can't replace people like that. I am from West Virginia originally and to have someone come and give so much to West Virginia is very humbling to me. He will live forever in our hearts."

While he was passionate about his work, he was also dedicated to his family, his colleagues said.

He lived in Charleston with his wife, Noura Akkad, and their two young children, Usama and Yasmin.

His brother-in-law, Dr. Ghali Bacha, said Mousattat became ill on Nov. 15 when he had sudden and excruciating pain in his back. Initially, it was thought to be a muscle strain but his condition continued to worsen. As tests continued, he was diagnosed with stage four cancer.

"There were no early symptoms," Bacha said.

When numerous hospital stays and treatments failed to help, Mousattat decided to stop chemotherapy. He died on April 19, five months after he became ill.

Muslim custom calls for burial as soon as possible, often before sundown on the day of death.

The gathering on Wednesday will give friends a chance to share memories, offer condolences and pay tribute to Mousattat's life.

Bacha said his brother-in-law loved being a doctor and had a gift for listening that drew people to him.

"He had a great ability to listen," Bacha said. "I fell short compared to him. Even in social gatherings, he felt no pressure to be the center of attention. He didn't feel pressure to talk or interrupt."

Bacha sent by email a list of blessings posted by Mousattat on Facebook after he became ill: "To have the most wonderful wife by my side. To have my Mom, Dad and sister live less than 10 minutes away. I see them every day and they are praying for me. To have the most amazing friends and co-workers at RBMC and CAMC who cared for me and treated me as a brother. Thank you all for everything you have done and the way you made me feel. It really made the whole difference. Have a happy thanksgiving everyone. Feeling blessed."

Employees at Raleigh Boone Medical Center have put together a Relay for Life team in memory of Dr. Alaa Mousattat to raise money for cancer research. The Relay for Life of Boone County will be from 2 to 10 p.m. June 6 at Scott High School in Madison. Go to www.relayforlife.org/BooneWV for more information.

Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at charlotte@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1246.

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Family fears proposed cuts to disability benefits waiver http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150503/DM01/150509804 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150503/DM01/150509804 Sun, 3 May 2015 19:57:33 -0400 By Joel Ebert Joseph "Bubby" Cobb was just seven months old when he was severely beaten by his father. The young boy was hospitalized for two months and had three strokes that put him into a coma before he recovered and was discharged. He was taken in by his grandmother, Cindy Johnson, who has been caring for him ever since.

Although doctors initially told Johnson that her grandson had been beaten so badly that he would be little more than a vegetable, Bubby, now 7 years old, is able to say a few words, drink out of a straw and even eat some foods with a spoon.

While he still is limited to moving by crawling and eating the majority of his food through a gastrostomy tube - which provides nutrition directly into the child's stomach via a tube inserted through his abdomen - Johnson believes with more therapy as part of Marshall University's Pediatric Feeding Clinic that Bubby will one day be able eat and drink with his mouth.

Despite Bubby's progress in recent years, Johnson is worried the cuts proposed to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources' Medicaid Title XIX Home and Community Based Services Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities Waiver Program could have devastating impacts.

The waiver program provides community-based and in-home services for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities who would otherwise qualify for placement in an institution.

The proposal from the DHHR would make significant changes to the program, including adding a minimum age of 3 to apply for the Intellectual/Development Disability Waiver, place certain limits on respite care and change the maximum number of hours a day parents of minor children can be paid for caregiving.

According to the DHHR, the IDD waiver covered 4,534 individuals in West Virginia in 2014 at the cost $385 million, which is an average of about $85,000 per person. The state appropriates about $89 million each year from the general revenue fund but for the past three years the state has spent an additional $41 million over the initial budgeted amount.

Since fiscal year 2010, the amount spent on the waiver program has increased by more than $110 million.

As a result, some in the government have called for reforms to the program.

"By making adjustments, we believe that we will be able to assist more state residents who qualify for these services," Jeremiah Samples, DHHR deputy secretary of Public Health and Insurance previously told the Daily Mail.

The agency believes the proposed changes would help provide services to a portion of the 1,000 people currently on the program's waiting list, which would ultimately be beneficial.

But that's not the way critics of the cuts, including Johnson, see it.

"If they do the cuts, I risk losing my home and vehicle," said Johnson.

That's because Johnson, who had a stroke in 2008 that caused significant lasting damage to her right arm and leg, relies on the nearly $1,600 she receives each month through the waiver program to help cover the costs of caring for her grandson. The waiver program helps pay for Bubby's monthly supply of medication, which includes muscle relaxers that cost $500 and $300 anti-seizure medicine, and other needs.

While Bubby is eligible for $6,000 in Social Security benefits each month, the waiver program also helps Johnson, who has had a hard time finding work because of her present condition, afford her monthly home and car payments, as she spends countless hours taking care of her grandson, along with help from her children and fiance, Joe Weese.

Unless the DHHR reverses its course, Johnson believes she and thousands of other recipients of the waiver program will have to turn to the government for additional help.

"Hundreds of people will be on the doorstep of the DHHR," she said.

The issue is one that has caused great concern among those participating in the program, so much so that 1,200 people flocked to the Capitol last month to protest the cuts.

This Tuesday, the Statehouse will be flooded with more concerned residents as they deliver more than 10,000 petition signatures, including Johnson's, to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's office in hopes of calling attention to the issue.

"Basically what we're trying to do is to reach out to the governor and DHHR and tell them that we are still here," said Tracy White, an organizer among those protesting the proposed waiver cuts.

White said she hopes that through conversations with various officials, the state's proposal can be altered before it is sent to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

"We're tying to get to them to work out an agreement before it leaves this state," she said.

Although officials opened the proposal to a public comment period, which ended April 27, White said part of the frustration is that there has not been an adequate explanation of how the state would benefit from the cuts.

"We would be a little more accepting if they could come out and say exactly how many people would be removed from wait list," White said, while noting that state officials haven't even indicated exactly how much money would be saved by the proposed cuts.

The DHHR is currently in the process of reviewing the comments it received, the total of which has yet to be determined. According to Allison Adler, communications director of the DHHR, once the agency has finished reviewing all the comments and determining what, if any changes, are necessary, it will then sent the application to the feds who can take up to 90 days to review it.

But before all that happens, some, including several elected officials, remain hopeful they can have meaningful conversations with Gov. Tomblin and DHHR Secretary Karen Bowling.

"I would like to see us work through a difficult situation together," said Delegate Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha.

As of Friday, Guthrie had a tentatively scheduled meeting with both Tomblin and Bowling for this Thursday, when she hopes to understand if the public outcry has made a difference.

While Guthrie remains optimistic, she said, "There were some real bad practical impacts that this is going to have on the average folks who receive these services" if the proposed cuts become a reality.

"This is an important issue that affects a lot of families," said Delegate Patrick Lane, R-Kanawha.

Lane said he was particularly disappointed that the issue was not discussed in the most recent legislative session.

"Unfortunately DHHR and Governor Tomblin did not present these changes to the Legislature prior to us adjourning," he said.

Lane said if the proposed changes occurred during the session, there would've certainly been a public hearing where those proposing the changes would have to have a face-to-face meeting with those who would be affected.

To compensate for the lack of public hearing, Lane has planned a hearing of sorts to occur in the hallway outside of the House of Delegates chamber at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Lane has invited both the governor and Secretary Bowling to event.

"My hope is that DHHR will not only review the comments but listen to our constituents and revise the proposed cuts," Lane said.

And unless the agency alters the proposal, Lane agreed with Johnson, that there could be even greater consequences that could cost the state even more money.

Lane said the cutbacks could force people take care of their family members by quitting their jobs or asking for assistance from other government programs.

"It would be quite a cost savings for us to keep the program as is, as opposed to keeping people in some sort of institutional care," he said.

While the government has yet to finalize its proposal, families throughout the state, including Johnson and her grandson Bubby remain hopeful that the state will make the right decision.

"I just hope the DHHR has a heart and won't cut these kids off," Johnson said.

Contact writer Joel Ebert at 304-348-4843 or joel.ebert@dailymailwv.com. Follow him on twitter.com/joelebert29.

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Report finds plans violate requirements http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150429/ARTICLE/150429031 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150429/ARTICLE/150429031 Wed, 29 Apr 2015 19:51:37 -0400

By CARLA K. JOHNSON

The Associated Press

CHICAGO - Some insurance plans offered on the health overhaul law's new marketplaces violate the law's requirements for women's health, according to a new report from a women's legal advocacy group.

The National Women's Law Center analyzed plans in 15 states over two years and found some excluded dependents from maternity coverage, prohibited coverage of breast pumps or failed to cover all federally approved birth control methods.

The report calls for regulators to do a better job reviewing the plans and for insurers to comply with the law. It calls for more public access to health plan coverage documents, especially as people comparison shop for coverage.

Gretchen Borchelt of the National Women's Law Center said violations leave women "without the coverage they need."

"The health care law has done so much for women. We now need to make sure it reaches every woman and every woman gets the full range of benefits required by the law," Borchelt said.

Karen Ignagni, CEO of the trade association America's Health Insurance Plans, said the report presented a distorted picture.

"Health plans provide access to care for millions of women each day and receive high marks in customer satisfaction surveys. To use highly selective anecdotes to draw sweeping conclusions about consumers' coverage does nothing to improve the quality, accessibility, or affordability of health care for individuals and families," she said.

Health and Human Service Department spokeswoman Katie Hill said the Obama administration takes "reports of non-compliance very seriously," will continue to provide guidance to insurers and states, and "will explore whether additional measures are necessary."

"Thanks to the (Affordable Care Act), tens of millions of women have gained access to and are using much-needed health care," Hill said.

Under the health law, most health insurance plans must cover all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives as preventive care for women, free to the patient. The idea is to help women determine when they get pregnant and to increase the number of healthy newborns.

The report found 15 insurance companies in seven states that failed to cover all the FDA-approved contraceptives. For instance, a Wisconsin plan excluded sponges. A South Dakota plan wouldn't cover a long-lasting hormonal method that involves a small rod implanted under the skin of a woman's upper arm.

Other plans required financial cost-sharing for some birth control methods but not others, according to the report.

Problems cited by the report included one Tennessee plan that wouldn't cover maternity coverage for dependents, which could include spouses or offspring under age 26. Plans in Colorado and South Dakota limited the number of ultrasounds a pregnant woman could receive. An Alabama health plan capped the number of prenatal visits at six a year.

Health plans in Colorado, Ohio and Tennessee excluded breast pumps from coverage in 2014, the report said.

The analysis found problems with at least one health plan in every state, including on both state-run marketplaces and states relying on the federal HealthCare.gov exchange. The states included in the report are Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington and Wisconsin.

Most health plans are complying with the law, Borchelt said, so the violations wouldn't affect all of the roughly 6 million women covered on the marketplace.

"We want insurance companies to step up and regulators to do a better job of enforcing the requirements," Borchelt said.

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Group begins to tackle state's health problems http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150429/DM01/150429045 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150429/DM01/150429045 Wed, 29 Apr 2015 18:49:45 -0400 By Joel Ebert A group of West Virginia lawmakers and medical experts gathered in South Charleston on Wednesday in hopes of taking the first steps to tackle the state's major health issues, including obesity, tobacco use and substance abuse, and redefine the state's public health mission.

"This is about moving the needle," Karen Bowling, cabinet secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Resources, told members of the Public Health Impact Task Force, during its first meeting.

Dr. Rahul Gupta, the state's chief health officer, presented the group with an overview of the difficulties facing West Virginia in terms of health.

Armed with dozens of slides, Gupta pointed out that the state has the worst rankings in the nation regarding arthritis, disability, cardiovascular disease and obesity.

"We have the third highest median age in the nation," he continued, while also citing West Virginia's other struggles including the rate of citizens with college degrees, higher education retention rates, median household income and the percent of residents living below the poverty line.

"Any way you slice it, dice it, we have challenges," Gupta said. "We have exceptional circumstances ahead of us."

Although he had no shortage of information outlining the extreme difficulties facing the state, the former director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department said the purpose of the task force is to figure out ways to reduce costs and improve quality.

"We have to look at what will lead to fewer people dying and more people living a longer quality of life," he said.

Gupta said because of the state's situation, which he admitted didn't arise overnight, West Virginia needs to work harder than perhaps any other state in the nation in searching for ways to truly redefine public health.

"It's the commitment that we need to have and that's why we have experts around the table in various areas," he said.

The panel of experts features numerous county health officials, including Ritchie County Commissioner Stephen Worden, who also serves on the Mid-Ohio Valley Board of Health.

After Gupta's presentation, Worden expressed a specific concern.

"What disturbs me is no one ever mentions individual responsibility," he said.

Warden said a significant number of health issues can be solved by taking personal responsibility.

David Didden, Jefferson County's health officer, concurred, saying, "That is key to the discussions we are going to have."

Gupta said there are policy changes, such as higher deductibles for smokers, that have been implemented in recent years that have begun to encourage more healthy living.

Following the meeting, Gupta said the overall point of the task force is to come up with ways to address the state's problems and not necessarily zero in on just one issue.

"I think one of the things we have to stop doing is to look at one silver bullet solution," he said. "We have to look at comprehensive solutions and then put them in a policy and then keep a checklist."

But Gupta said such a comprehensive approach would certainly come with solutions to single issues.

Citing the state's issues with adult and youth tobacco use, as well as pregnant women, Gupta said smoking is one of many things that needs to be tackled in the future.

But reducing tobacco use rates won't happen tomorrow, next month or next year, he warned.

"But that is exactly the reason why we need to start now, in order to have that impact for the next generation," Gupta said.

The Public Health Impact Task Force, which is expected to meet nine times in the coming months, will next gather on May 13.

Contact writer Joel Ebert at 304-348-4843 or joel.ebert@dailymailwv.com. Follow him on twitter.com/joelebert29.

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Experts offer tips for seasonal allergy sufferers http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150427/DM01/150429246 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150427/DM01/150429246 Mon, 27 Apr 2015 20:14:48 -0400 By Joel Ebert It's that time of year again - allergy season is here.

Typically lasting from April through June, springtime is usually a time many suffer from seasonal allergies.

With symptoms ranging from sneezing and congestion to watery and itchy eyes, seasonal allergies can even include wheezing and difficulty breathing.

But the most common symptom of seasonal allergies is itchy eyes, nose, throat or ears, said Dr. Blair Thrush, of Thrush & Clark Allergists in Charleston.

With millions of people affected by seasonal allergies each year, people are always looking for the best ways to fight back.

A few experts provided a handful of simple solutions for those suffering from seasonal allergies.

Keep the windows closed: One of the most effective ways to combat allergies is to cut off access to the outdoors.

That means shutting your windows at home and work and even keeping the windows rolled up while driving. With reasonably cool weather lately, it may not be a problem for most people to keep their windows shut. But for those who live in warm buildings or on particularly hot days, at least keep your bedroom windows shut.

Keeping the bedroom windows open allows allergens to settle down on your bed, says Tara Whetsel, a clinical associate professor at the West Virginia University School of Pharmacy.

"Try to keep the bedroom as allergen free as possible," she said.

Nasal sprays offer economical relief: Among the newest nasal sprays on the market are Flonase and Nasacort, said Whetsel.

Both products were previously only available with a prescription but today each can be purchased over the counter.

They will treat all of the nasal symptoms - congestion, runny nose, sneezing - Whetsel said and you can use them as long as necessary.

Another benefit of both nasal sprays is their cost - which is around $20 for a .54 fluid ounce container.

Antihistamines do have drawbacks: Another option for fending off seasonal allergies are antihistamine products such as Claritin, Zyrtec and Allegra. Those who don't like nasal sprays often opt for pills but for some there are drawbacks.

"They tend to be less effective and can cause dry mouth and dry eyes," she said.

Whetsel encouraged buying the generic version of the products versus the name brand.

Some advice on additional preventative measures: People with trees on their properties often think chopping down pollen-producers such as oak or pine will severely limit their allergies. But that's not true, Thrush said.

"It doesn't really matter because pollen blows for miles," he said.

Thrush agreed with Whetsel's assessment that one of the best ways to combat pollen, aside from taking antihistamines and nasal sprays, is to keep your windows shut.

But not everyone can stay inside all day, as spring's blossom also brings with it necessary amounts of yard work. Thrush said for those that know they are going to have to deal with the outdoors for a limited period of time can use a product like Nasalcrom, which he said can block an allergy attack for about four hours.

Whetsel said those with itchy eyes can purchase eye drops known as ketotifen.

For those who want to take it a step beyond eye drops or other antihistamines, Thrush said there's also another option.

"You could wear a mask when you're cutting the yard but that is not very comfortable," he said.

Contact writer Joel Ebert at 304-348-4843 or joel.ebert@dailymailwv.com. Follow him on twitter.com/joelebert29.

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State education official receives CDC recognition http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150423/DM01/150429548 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150423/DM01/150429548 Thu, 23 Apr 2015 20:12:13 -0400 A West Virginia school nurse has won a national award for work in improving childhood immunization.

Rebecca King, a state school nurse consultant and coordinator for the West Virginia Department of Education, was recognized Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with a Childhood Immunization Champion award.

King has been a member of numerous professional organizations and partnerships that seek to improve immunization rates in West Virginia, which has one of the best school-entry vaccination rates in the country.

Each year during National Infant Immunization Week, the CDC honors health professionals and community leaders from around the country with the award, which acknowledges outstanding efforts of individuals who strive to see children fully immunized before the age of two.

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Listeria: Jeni's 2nd ice cream company to stop production http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150423/ARTICLE/150429579 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150423/ARTICLE/150429579 Thu, 23 Apr 2015 17:31:43 -0400

By MARY CLARE JALONICK

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - A second ice cream company has shut down production this week after health officials found listeria in a sample of its frozen treats.

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams of Ohio said on its website that it recalled its frozen products. The action follows a similar action by Texas-based Blue Bell Creameries Monday. Blue Bell's ice cream was linked to 10 listeria illnesses in four states and three deaths.

It wasn't immediately clear if the recalls are connected. Listeria isn't commonly found in ice cream, since the bacteria can't grow at freezing temperatures. The FDA did not have a comment on the recall.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there are no known illnesses linked to Jeni's products. In an online statement, the company said it is recalling all ice creams, frozen yogurts, sorbets, and ice cream sandwiches and closing retail stores until its products are "ensured to be 100 percent safe."

The Nebraska Department of Agriculture found listeria in a sample of Jeni's ice cream it had randomly collected at a Whole Foods in Lincoln, Nebraska.

"We will be working with our suppliers to determine if the bacteria was introduced by one of the ingredients we use," said John Lowe, the company's CEO. "We will not reopen the kitchen until we can ensure the safety of our customers."

Jeni's said the recalled ice cream was distributed in the United States to retail outlets, including food service and grocery stores, as well as online at jenis.com. The recall includes all products bearing the brand name "Jeni's."

Listeria generally only affects the elderly, people with compromised immune systems, pregnant women and their newborn infants. It can cause fever, muscle aches and gastrointestinal symptoms.

The bacteria is found in soil and water that can be tracked into a facility or carried by animals. It can be very difficult to get rid of once it contaminates a processing facility, partly because it grows well in refrigeration. It is commonly found in processed meats, unpasteurized cheeses and unpasteurized milk, and it is sometimes found in other foods as well - listeria in cantaloupes was linked to 30 deaths in a 2011 outbreak.

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Find Mary Clare Jalonick on Twitter: http://twitter.com/mcjalonick

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Health law increases food stamp enrollment in W.Va. http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150422/DM01/150429711 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150422/DM01/150429711 Wed, 22 Apr 2015 16:57:17 -0400

CARLA K. JOHNSON

and DAVID MERCER

The Associated Press

CHICAGO - President Barack Obama's health care law has had a surprising side effect: In some states, it appears to be enticing more Americans to apply for food stamps, even as the economy improves.

New, streamlined application systems built for the health care overhaul are making it easier for people to enroll in government benefit programs, including insurance coverage and food stamps.

In most affected states, the enrollment increases were not huge, ranging from 1 percent to 6 percent over two years, according to an Associated Press analysis. The sole exception was Nevada, where enrollment shot up 14 percent.

The enrollment is climbing as Republicans try to cut the costs of the food program and at a time when food-stamp usage would normally be expected to decline. Eligibility rules have not changed.

West Virginia's food-stamp enrollment increased 4 percent after a Medicaid expansion that was part of the health care changes. Enrollment jumped because people were "more engaged with our systems and more aware what they're eligible for," said Jeremiah Samples of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.

With the economy improving, national food-stamp enrollment declined in 2013 and 2014. But in 11 states, demand rose between January 2013 and the end of 2014, the AP analysis showed.

Ten of those states expanded their Medicaid programs under the health law. Florida did not expand Medicaid but led the nation in health law enrollment in private insurance plans.

Six of the states employed new easy sign-up systems that helped people apply for both Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps, at the same time. Some used online calculators or click-the-box features.

The food-stamp increase was not envisioned by either supporters or opponents of the new health care system. While it's unclear exactly how much growth can be attributed to the law and incentives it offered to states, the increased enrollment could be expensive. The average food-stamp recipient was paid $125.35 a month last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers SNAP.

Based on that, the nearly 632,000 people added to food-stamp rolls in the 11 states would cost SNAP nearly $79 million a month.

"It wasn't clear to us whether the Affordable Care Act was going to be something that would cause SNAP enrollment to go up or to go down," said Dorothy Rosenbaum, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington group that advocates for low-income people.

But advocates hoped state investments in technology and online tools would reach new people needing food benefits. Two out of 10 Americans who are qualified for food stamps have never signed up, Rosenbaum said.

Washington provides the money for food stamps, but the assistance program is administered by the states, with regulations varying from state to state.

The impact of the increased enrollment could grow because more states are planning to upgrade their application systems for social programs, using federal money offered by the administration through 2018.

Under the new health care law, 29 states, including those governed by both Democrats and Republicans, have so far decided to expand their Medicaid programs to cover more low-income people. Five states are still discussing the expansion.

Sixteen states, most led by Republican opponents of the health program, are rejecting the Medicaid expansion. In almost every state refusing to expand Medicaid, food-stamp enrollments have been going down with the improving economy.

Among the states with growing food-stamp use, many made efforts to improve Medicaid and food-stamp enrollment systems, using health-law funding for call centers, document imaging, electronic data matching and other tools, according to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

In Illinois, food-stamp enrollment increased 2.5 percent to 2.08 million between January 2013 and December 2014, an increase of about 50,000 people in a period when the state's unemployment rate fell from 9.1 percent to 6.2 percent. Illinois has long let people sign up for food stamps, Medicaid and other benefits on a single form, state officials said, but a new online application, nicknamed "ABE" for the 16th president, is easier to use.

In New Mexico, food-stamp enrollment has grown by about 22,000 people, a 5 percent increase in 14 months, since the state launched a Web-based sign-up system.

"We attribute the increase in SNAP to Medicaid expansion," said New Mexico Human Services Department Deputy Secretary Sean Pearson. "When folks go online now, they have the ability to apply for multiple programs in a single session."

Enrollment counselors who sign people up for Medicaid say the new systems make it easier for people who qualify to overcome any hesitation about getting food benefits. In Illinois, an online calculator allows people to see how much they might get in food benefits each month.

"If it's over $100, they definitely say, 'Yeah, check the box for me,'" said Juanita Dorantes of Chicago, who has helped people sign up for benefits for 12 years and said it's never been easier.

Illinois resident Mishaun Cannon, 48, who unexpectedly lost a good-paying hospital job last year and has been pursuing a career-switch master's degree, signed up for Medicaid in January. She was surprised to learn she likely would qualify for food stamps too.

"I was amazed. I said, 'Where do I apply?' Every little bit helps," Cannon said. Signing up was a breeze, she said.

Republicans in March proposed a 34 percent cut over 10 years in the food-stamp program, which almost doubled in size after the recession. SNAP grew from 26.5 million recipients and a cost of $32.9 billion in 2006 to 47.6 million people and $79.9 billion in 2013 before contracting slightly last year.

Streamlined signups reflect what Robert Doar of the conservative American Enterprise Institute believes are changes in the program's mission, from short-term help to something more permanent.

He was commissioner of the New York City Human Resources Administration, which determined food-stamp eligibility in the city, until 2013. The federal emphasis was on program promotion and ease of enrollment, he said, "and has not been, 'help people get jobs.'"

Last fall, the Obama administration extended federal funding for merging state food stamps and Medicaid enrollment systems through the end of 2018.

With the three-year extension, more states are expected to take advantage of the funding, which can mean millions of dollars per state and allow technology improvements "at little to no cost," said Megan Lape of the American Public Human Services Association, a nonprofit membership organization for state human services officials.

Besides adding convenience for low-income applicants, the integrated sign-up systems reduce the stigma associated with food benefits, said Larry Goolsby, director of strategic initiatives for APHSA.

Some who were reluctant to sign up for food stamps have "no reluctance at all signing up for Medicaid," Goolsby said. "They don't see that in the same category as what we used to call welfare."

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Faith-based organization aims to help addicted Appalachian men http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150422/DM02/150429762 DM02 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150422/DM02/150429762 Wed, 22 Apr 2015 06:11:47 -0400 By Tyler Bell A new faith-based nonprofit is seeking substantial donations to fund its first brick-and-mortar location.

"Everyone has suffered from addiction somehow," said Jason McClanahan, a pastor at Randolph Street Baptist Church in Charleston. McClanahan is also one of the five directors on the board of Hope For Appalachia, an organization he describes as a holistic approach to addiction recovery.

The plan is to help only a few men at a time on a long-term basis using a concentrated plan, he said. The program will focus on getting those individuals sober, of course, but also impart life skills like communication and self-determination.

The program aims to treat the "whole person," on what McClanahan describes as spiritual, physical, mental and emotional levels. Healing the rift drug addiction causes between men and their families is part of that endeavor.

"Often they're the ones that have suffered years of abuse," McClanahan said. Lying and stealing to support one's habit are well-known symptoms of drug addiction.

With long-term health in mind, healing that rift is necessary to provide the men with a support structure after they've left the program. And, getting out and into the community isn't just a goal of the program, it's part of the process.

"On the backside of the recovery process for a young man, what's the end game?" McClanahan asked. "If they can't pay bills, if they can't make a budget, if they can't communicate with family?"

Hope for Appalachia plans to have its treatment center inside the city, and to only seclude the addicts for the first portion of treatment, McClanahan said. In the latter portions, the men will slowly be reintroduced to society, as opposed to just being released at the end of treatment.

"Some programs isolate men for that program," he said. "We want to help men in the midst of life, in the midst of these struggles, learn to overcome them."

The program is ambitious, but it hasn't started yet, because the nonprofit is still short the funding it needs to found the physical location. Roughly half a million dollars short, to be exact.

"We're trying to raise $450,000 to $500,000 for the facility," McClanahan said. He acknowledges that that's a great deal of money, but he's sure the program, and the board of directors backing it, speak for themselves. "That's part of the reason we put together the board we have."

The board includes: James Harris, a former Marine and seven-year veteran of the State Police; Anthony (Kwangsoo) Park, a psychiatrist and medical director of the Geriatric Program at River Park Hospital in Huntington; Roger Shealy, CPA, the chief financial officer of Bailey and Glasser LLP; Andrew Stonestreet, an attorney at Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown and Poe; and McClanahan himself.

"Just being a nonprofit organization is a challenge, but when you think about raising a half a million operating budget, that's even more complicated," he said. But, he added, "The comprehensive nature of this program will inspire people to give."

They have high hopes, expecting to raise funds soon enough to be operational by early to mid-2016, McClanahan said.

"We're ready to go on our end as soon as we have an operating budget and building in place," he said. That operating budget goes toward everything from kitchen utensils and beds to the medical staff needed for addiction recovery.

He added that the program isn't going to be a free ride for men facing addiction. Though some men, in special cases, may not have to pay any money, they will work part time during the recovery process.

"Part of what we're doing is having the men pay part of it with part-time work," he said. "If they're ideal for our program, they're not going to have to pay."

He explained what "ideal" means in this case.

"It's going to be men who are willing to put an end to this destructive pattern in their lives," he said. "It's not just a hand out."

Anyone who wishes to make a donation can give to Hope for Appalachia by visiting hopeforappalachia.org and clicking on "give," or by writing a check payable to Hope for Appalachia and mailing it to Hope for Appalachia, P.O. Box 20076, Charleston, WV 25362.

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Faith-based organization aims to help addicted Appalachian men http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150421/DM02/150429790 DM02 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150421/DM02/150429790 Tue, 21 Apr 2015 20:52:48 -0400 By Tyler Bell A new faith-based nonprofit is seeking substantial donations to fund its first brick-and-mortar location.

"Everyone has suffered from addiction somehow," said Jason McClanahan, a pastor at Randolph Street Baptist Church in Charleston. McClanahan is also one of the five directors on the board of Hope For Appalachia, an organization he describes as a holistic approach to addiction recovery.

The plan is to help only a few men at a time on a long-term basis using a concentrated plan, he said. The program will focus on getting those individuals sober, of course, but also impart life skills like communication and self-determination.

The program aims to treat the "whole person," on what McClanahan describes as spiritual, physical, mental and emotional levels. Healing the rift drug addiction causes between men and their families is part of that endeavor.

"Often they're the ones that have suffered years of abuse," McClanahan said. Lying and stealing to support one's habit are well-known symptoms of drug addiction.

With long-term health in mind, healing that rift is necessary to provide the men with a support structure after they've left the program. And, getting out and into the community isn't just a goal of the program, it's part of the process.

"On the backside of the recovery process for a young man, what's the end game?" McClanahan asked. "If they can't pay bills, if they can't make a budget, if they can't communicate with family?"

Hope for Appalachia plans to have its treatment center inside the city, and to only seclude the addicts for the first portion of treatment, McClanahan said. In the latter portions, the men will slowly be reintroduced to society, as opposed to just being released at the end of treatment.

"Some programs isolate men for that program," he said. "We want to help men in the midst of life, in the midst of these struggles, learn to overcome them."

The program is ambitious, but it hasn't started yet, because the nonprofit is still short the funding it needs to found the physical location. Roughly half a million dollars short, to be exact.

"We're trying to raise $450,000 to $500,000 for the facility," McClanahan said. He acknowledges that that's a great deal of money, but he's sure the program, and the board of directors backing it, speak for themselves. "That's part of the reason we put together the board we have."

The board includes: James Harris, a former Marine and seven-year veteran of the State Police; Anthony (Kwangsoo) Park, a psychiatrist and medical director of the Geriatric Program at River Park Hospital in Huntington; Roger Shealy, CPA, the chief financial officer of Bailey and Glasser LLP; Andrew Stonestreet, an attorney at Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown and Poe; and McClanahan himself.

"Just being a nonprofit organization is a challenge, but when you think about raising a half a million operating budget, that's even more complicated," he said. But, he added, "The comprehensive nature of this program will inspire people to give."

They have high hopes, expecting to raise funds soon enough to be operational by early to mid-2016, McClanahan said.

"We're ready to go on our end as soon as we have an operating budget and building in place," he said. That operating budget goes toward everything from kitchen utensils and beds to the medical staff needed for addiction recovery.

He added that the program isn't going to be a free ride for men facing addiction. Though some men, in special cases, may not have to pay any money, they will work part time during the recovery process.

"Part of what we're doing is having the men pay part of it with part-time work," he said. "If they're ideal for our program, they're not going to have to pay."

He explained what "ideal" means in this case.

"It's going to be men who are willing to put an end to this destructive pattern in their lives," he said. "It's not just a hand out."

Anyone who wishes to make a donation can give to Hope for Appalachia by visiting hopeforappalachia.org and clicking on "give," or by writing a check payable to Hope for Appalachia and mailing it to Hope for Appalachia, P.O. Box 20076, Charleston, WV 25362.

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Need an Earth Day snack? Your backyard might be delicious http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150421/DM06/150429809 DM06 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150421/DM06/150429809 Tue, 21 Apr 2015 18:39:07 -0400 By Billy Wolfe When Erin Larsen wants a snack this time of year, she's just as likely to head to her backyard as the refrigerator.

During a recent walk around her Fayetteville property, the yoga instructor/holistic health coach found three of her favorite "wild edibles." For experienced foragers like Larsen, it's about more than just ramps and morels.

At the corner of the yard was a cluster of green and purple pokeweed, an herb that becomes poisonous when fully mature but is packed with nutrition and flavor as a young spring shoot. It's among the wild plants most prized by spring foragers.

"As a young shoot they look a little like asparagus," Larsen said.

Pokeweed is known as a potherb, meaning it must be cooked. Never eat it raw.

"It's a hardy stalk; you boil it twice and then fry it up with onions and butter. I love it," Larsen said.

The roots and berries of American pokeweed should never be eaten, because they are also poisonous. As wild edibles go, it's recommended only experienced foragers prepare it.

More plentiful in Larsen's yard (and much safer than pokeweed) were dandelions.

For decades, homeowners have regarded the hardy, persistent weeds as a nuisance, but every part of the dandelion can be used in the kitchen. The results can be delicious.

The flowers (the bigger the better) can be dredged in a light batter and fried over medium heat until golden brown. The roots can be roasted and then steeped for a caffeine-free coffee substitute. Toss the younger, tender leaves in a salad or wilt the more mature, bitter leaves in a bit of butter and sprinkle with vinegar.

Dandelion blossoms can also be used to make dandelion wine.

Violets also dotted Larsen's yard. She said the tiny purple flowers are not only tasty, but can also double as a headache cure.

"They contain salicylic acid," she said. "It's a component in aspirin."

Larsen began learning about foraging about ten years ago, and has become quite the source of knowledge ever since. She loves to share her knowledge and said Earth Day is a great time for beginners to start learning about wild edibles.

First, foraging gets you out into nature. Larsen sometimes leads youth hikes and said she enjoys watching the kids light up when they learn about different forest plants they can eat.

"So many kids these days, they don't get outside anymore because they are afraid of everything," she said. "So, it's fun getting to go and show them."

Doug Jolley, plant regulatory officer for the state Department of Agriculture, occasionally gives educational talks on wild edibles, gardening and even bird watching.

He said the most commonly foraged foods include ramps (wild leeks) and morels (wild mushrooms).

"People are very protective of their morel sites," he said. "They guard them like their favorite fishing hole.

He said foraging played an important part of life for early American settlers and natives alike.

"Wild edibles in the spring are mainly wild greens. They were important to our early settlers because the leafy portion would grow very early in the spring and that gave them a good source of Vitamin C and other nutrients that they would be lacking throughout the winter," he said.

Wild foods might sound scary, and make no mistake, they can be dangerous if not consumed or prepared properly. But Jolley said you can rest assured wild foods are free of most pollutants and pesticides found in commercial foods.

The pursuit itself is good for you, he said.

"It gets you out of the house, it gets you moving and properly preparing them is a fun activity," he said. "And they can be beautiful dishes when they are served up."

He recommends the book "Stalking the Wild Asparagus" by Euell Gibbons as a go-to for anyone who wants to learn more.

Consult a field guide or expert before trying to identify plants on your own. Here are a few of West Virginia's dozens of wild edibles and how they are used:

* Yellow rocket (early spring): This member of the mustard family, also called winter cress, is at its peak right now and can be found in hayfields and unmaintained, open areas, Jolley said. Leaves and flowers can be eaten, either raw in a salad or cooked with other potherbs.

* Toothwort (spring): The leaves and roots of the toothwort are edible, either raw or cooked. The taste is crisp and somewhat pungent. The roots have a somewhat spicy flavor and can be used to make a kind of horseradish.

* Stinging nettle (spring): Larsen said stinging nettles are among some of the most nutritious wild greens, containing lots of vitamins A and C, potassium, iron, manganese and protein. Only the top four leaves should be picked, and hands should be protected with gloves. To deactivate the stinging nettles, she pours boiling water over the leaves and allows them to sit for 3-5 minutes. They can be added to stir fries and frittatas or pured into a pesto or curry.

* Japanese knotweed (spring): One of the most highly invasive plants in the world, Japanese knotweed produces highly edible shoots. "It's one of the most invasive plants in North America," Jolley said. "It's taking over creek bottoms and river valleys. If more people would eat it in the spring, it might help." The shoots should be tender enough to snap off without use of scissors or a knife. It can be substituted for rhubarb. Chopped shoots can also be added raw to salads for zesty crunch.

* Jerusalem Artichoke (summer): Found along open roads and edges of fields, Jerusalem Artichoke is a kind of sunflower. It's valued for its roots, which are somewhat potato-like. Whether the name came from pilgrims or French explorers calling the plant "girasol artichoke," it isn't exactly clear where the name came from. "It has nothing to do with being an artichoke and has nothing to do with Jerusalem, but you know how Appalachians corrupt names," Jolley said with a laugh. It is often used as a potato substitute and seed can be purchased from catalogue, he said.

Reach Life editor Billy Wolfe at life@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4830.

Fried Dandelions with Wasabi Mayo

1 dozen large dandelion blossoms (leave just enough of the green base to keep the flower intact)

1 cup panko bread crumbs

1 egg

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Cooking oil

For the wasabi mayo:

2 teaspoons wasabi powder

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon white vinegar

Mix the wasabi, mayo and vinegar together and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Beat the egg with a few drops of water.

Mix the bread crumbs, salt and pepper in a separate bowl and set aside.

Dredge the blossoms first through the beaten egg, and then through the bread crumb mixture.

Fry flower side down in at least one inch of oil over medium heat for about three minutes, until golden brown. Remove with chopsticks.

Enjoy the fried blossoms by dipping in wasabi mayo.

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National effort brings attention to infant immunizations http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150420/DM0104/150429911 DM0104 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150420/DM0104/150429911 Mon, 20 Apr 2015 20:04:11 -0400 By Whitney Burdette West Virginia has among the lowest infant immunization rates in the nation, but a weeklong observance aims to bring attention to the need to vaccinate young children.

National Infant Immunization Week began Monday. Throughout the week, local and state health departments across the country, including the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, will work to highlight the need for early childhood vaccinations and educate parents on why their children need to be immunized against potentially deadly illnesses.

"Immunizations are so important for children in West Virginia in light of recent outbreaks of measles and whooping cough in other states," DHHR Secretary Karen Bowling said. "Protecting babies from whooping cough begins before a baby is born, with the mom-to-be receiving a simple Tdap shot in the third trimester."

Tdap, which stands for Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis, protects both mother and baby from the illnesses, which can be deadly to infants. Instances of Pertussis, often referred to as whooping cough, have dropped by about 80 percent in the United States since the vaccination became available, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Vaccines are available for 14 potentially dangerous childhood illnesses. In addition to Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis, they include Hepatitis A and B, Influenza, Measles, Rotavirus, Haemophilus Influenza Type B, Mumps, Pneumococcal Disease, Polio, Rubella (German measles) and chickenpox. Following CDC recommendations and immunizing children against these diseases before the age of 2 is the best way to fight against them, health officials said.

"Vaccines are among the most successful and cost-effective public health tools available for preventing disease and death," said Dr. Rahul Gupta, state health officer and commissioner for the Bureau for Public Health. "They not only help protect vaccinated individuals, but also help protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases."

Although these immunizations are required for children entering public school, the state's immunization rate for younger kids is the seventh lowest in the nation. But once kids enter school, that number increases dramatically. West Virginia has among the best immunization rate in the country for school-aged children.

Gupta spoke out against legislation that would change the way parents could go about getting a medical exemption for their children. An amendment offered to Senate Bill 286 would have required the waiver to be reviewed by the local county health boards rather than Gupta's bureau. The waiver request would only have been reported to the Bureau for Public Health if it were denied, meaning the board would have no way of tracking how many children in the public school system were not immunized, Gupta said. The bill eventually failed to pass the full Legislature.

Gupta said it is important for children and adults to receive the full range of recommended vaccines to not only protect themselves, but also populations - such as infants - who have weakened or developing immunity.

"What happens when a child is vaccinated and multiple children are vaccinated in that community, we have what's called herd immunity," Gupta told the Daily Mail last month. "We understand there are some children and adults who are unable to mount an immune response to vaccines, so we're talking about kids who have leukemia and are undergoing treatment for that or have other immunosuppressed conditions, a woman who is pregnant and teaches or lives in the communities.

"I think there's no debate we need to be most protective of our most vulnerable populations," he added.

Parents who are uninsured or can't afford vaccines can take advantage of the West Virginia Vaccines for Children program, which provides immunizations for free. For more information, contact the DHHR Division of Immunization Services at 1-800-642-3634.

Contact writer Whitney Burdette at 304-348-7939 or whitney.burdette@dailymailwv.com. Follow her at www.Twitter.com/wburdette_DM.

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Anti-vaccine mother's children catch disease http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150415/ARTICLE/150419489 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150415/ARTICLE/150419489 Wed, 15 Apr 2015 20:44:33 -0400 By LENNY BERNSTEIN and REBECCA SCHATZ The Washington Post WASHINGTON — In the ongoing skirmishes between public health officials and vaccine skeptics, I’m scoring this one for the pro-immunization forces. A Canadian woman who had declined to have her children immunized against pertussis, better known as whooping cough, has changed her position now that all seven of her children have come down with the disease.

Yes, Tara Hills was stuck in isolation at her Ottawa home for more than a week with her sick children and her regrets about refusing to vaccinate them against the highly contagious respiratory disease. Whooping cough, a bacterial infection, causes violent, uncontrollable coughing and is best known for the telltale sound victims make as they try to draw breath. Occasionally, it can be fatal, especially in infants less than a year old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Hills kids completed a course of antibiotics and were released from isolation Tuesday.

“I set out to prove that we were right,” Hills said in an interview with The Washington Post, “and in the process found out how wrong we were.”

Vaccination rates in Canada, like those in United States, have waned in some communities, mostly as a result of increased skepticism about the dangers of immunization that have spread on the Internet despite overwhelming scientific evidence that vaccines are safe and effective. A debunked 1998 study linked the measles vaccine to autism. Both Canada and the U.S. have suffered large outbreaks of whooping cough and measles in recent years.

In an April 8 post she wrote for the blog TheScientificParent.org, Hills offered many of the most common reasons for skepticism about vaccines. She and her husband had partially immunized their first three children, but decided against any vaccines for the next four.

“We stopped because we were scared and didn’t know who to trust,” she wrote. “Was the medical community just paid off puppets of a Big Pharma-Government-Media conspiracy? Were these vaccines even necessary in this day and age? Were we unwittingly doing greater harm than help to our beloved children? So much smoke must mean a fire, so we defaulted to the ‘do nothing and hope nothing bad happens’ position.”

But when a small measles outbreak hit nearby, Hills was terrified. “I looked again at the science and evidence for community immunity and found myself gripped with a very real sense of personal and social responsibility before God and man. The time had come to make a more fully informed decision than we did 6 years ago. I sat down with our family doctor and we put together a catch-up vaccination schedule for our children,” she wrote.

But before that could happen, all her children came down with whooping cough. A vaccine for the disease has existed in Canada for 70 years.

“Right now my family is living the consequences of misinformation and fear,” Hills wrote. “I understand that families in our community may be mad at us for putting their kids at risk. I want them to know that we tried our best to protect our kids when we were afraid of vaccination and we are doing our best now, for everyone’s sake, by getting them up to date.”

The only silver lining about learning the hard way is the knowledge that minds can be changed on this subject, she said.

“People like me who were hesitant, who were confused, who froze, we can be reached if people use the right approach,” she told The Washington Post.

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US Attorney sets up site for potential chemical leak victims http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150415/DM0104/150419501 DM0104 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150415/DM0104/150419501 Wed, 15 Apr 2015 19:30:23 -0400 By Whitney Burdette Potential victims of the Jan. 9, 2014, chemical spill now have a central location to access information.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin announced the website www.justice.gov/usao-sdwv/chemical-spill Wednesday. In accordance with the Crime Victims’ Rights Act and the Attorney General’s Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance, the site will provide information to people who may be victims of the spill, which leaked thousands of gallons of coal processing agent MCHM into the Elk River last year.

The site will include links to all documents charging Freedom Industries officials with crimes, dates and times of upcoming public criminal proceedings and a list of resources available to those who think they may have been harmed by the chemical.

The spill compromised West Virginia American Water’s Elk River intake, affecting about 300,000 customers in a nine-county area. The spill prompted a do-not-use order from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, and many in the affected area drove outside the region to bathe or shower and purchase bottled water. Several businesses were forced to close during the time, including restaurants.

Health officials have said nearly 400 people were treated for symptoms associated with exposure to the licorice-scented chemical.

Various charges against executives for the now defunct Freedom Industries, which owned the tank that stored the MCHM, have been filed with several entering guilty pleas. The company’s former president and owner will face separate trials later this year related to the spill and the company’s subsequent bankruptcy.

Anyone who believes they are a victim of the spill or wants to receive notice of future developments in cases related to the spill, submit written information concerning the effect the chemical had on them or attend criminal court proceedings should visit the website or speak with one of the office’s Victim-Wellness Coordinators by calling 304-345-2200 or 800-659-8726.

Contact writer Whitney Burdette at 304-348-7939 or whitney.burdette@dailymailwv.com. Follow her at www.Twitter.com/wburdette_DM.

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Advocates decry proposed change to waiver program http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150409/DM0104/150409177 DM0104 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150409/DM0104/150409177 Thu, 9 Apr 2015 22:14:49 -0400 By Marcus Constantino By Whitney Burdette Whitney Burdette Parents and advocates for the developmentally disabled are speaking out against a proposal by the Department of Health and Human Resources to change the Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities Waiver.

More than a thousand concerned citizens gathered at the steps of the West Virginia Capitol on Thursday to speak out against the changes they fear could prevent families of individuals with special needs from working a full-time job. The proposed changes would affect the 4,534 people currently served by the program and their families.

The waiver provides community-based and in-home services for those with intellectual or developmental disabilities who would otherwise qualify for placement in an institution.

Under the proposal, person-centered support would be cut from an eight-hour maximum to four hours on school days and six hours on non-school days. The current eight-hour maximum allows parents to work outside of the home and rely on a trusted care giver to look after a child with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

Ashley Orndorff, 29, of Charleston, and her husband both work full-time jobs to support their one-year-old child, Hannah, who has Down syndrome. Orndorff said Hannah qualifies for the Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities Waiver now, but the proposed changes would prevent her from qualifying for the waiver until she's three years old.

Orndorff said Hannah has about eight doctor's appointments a month, and that they struggle to make ends meet because she has to take so much time off work to attend the appointments.

"We would probably have to prioritize," Orndorff said. "My paycheck obviously takes a cut if I'm not at work, and I'm having to attend different appointments and services for my daughter, and the waiver would help with that as it is now. But with the cuts, it would strain us financially to supplement that time that I'm not able to work."

The DHHR spent $385 million on the program last year, at an average cost of $85,000 per person. But according to a DHHR press release, the state appropriates $89 million each year from the general revenue fund and for the past three years, the state has spent more than $41 million over the allotted budget. Since fiscal year 2010, the amount spent for the waiver has increased by more than $110 million. The proposed changes aim to rein in the program while allowing some of the 1,000 people on the wait list to be placed in the program.

"By making adjustments, we believe that we will be able to assist more state residents who qualify for these services," said Jeremiah Samples, DHHR deputy secretary of Public Health and Insurance.

Although the changes could lead to more people participating in the program, advocates say families already receiving services would be adversely affected by any adjustments. Steve Wiseman, executive director of the West Virginia Developmental Disabilities Council, said his organization has heard from many parents and advocates opposed to the change.

"I think families and advocates, but particularly families of people with disabilities served through these services, are really starting to understand what the implications might be," Wiseman said.

Reducing the maximum hours of support per week may mean parents have to give up those full-time jobs in order to be home with their child. Respite care would also be cut by about 58 percent.

"That's not something people are loosely saying," Wiseman said. "I think people realize they took jobs because they had this opportunity that valuable Medicaid services have provided."

Dreama Denver, of Princeton, attended the rally for her 31-year-old son, Colin, who she said is severely disabled and requires around-the-clock care. She said families who have never taken care of an individual with special needs simply do not understand how the proposed changes to the Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities waiver program would affect families.

Denver said she took care of Colin on her own for five years after her husband, "Gilligan's Island" actor Bob Denver, died in 2005. Denver said she almost went broke and had a heart attack due to the stress of the situation, but that the waiver program has helped her and her son have better quality of life.

"A lot of people are going to be affected physically and financially, and it's terrifying to me," Denver said.

Wiseman said West Virginia was out front in the 1980s and 90s, closing state-operated institutions that housed intellectually and developmentally disabled people and enacting the IDD waiver program to increase in-home services and allow parents and other trusted adults to care for disabled children in their own homes and communities.

"DHHR can be credited with being steadfast in keeping that program going the way it has," Wiseman said, noting the program is reauthorized every five years.

In 2010, advocates pushed for more self-directed care, Wiseman said. But that could be part of what has lead to the financial problems the program faces, though his group isn't so sure that's the case.

According to the DHHR news release, the department's Bureau for Medical Services compared other states' IDD benefits to West Virginia's and saw a large disparity. West Virginia offers a much more generous IDD benefit than surrounding states and most other states in the nation. The proposals, they say, aligns West Virginia with other states, controls state spending and allows more people to benefit from the program.

"The IDD Waiver program was never intended to support the family financially," the release reads. "It is based on the assumption that natural supports, such as family and friends, would provide some services without being paid for them."

"There are many, many facets to it," Wiseman said. "On the money side, is it much more economical today for people who are living at home and the vast majority of people live at home in the program who have several disabilities - it is more economical to be in the approach we have now with personal options where parents and other trusted loved ones are responsible for some of the care than it is to go with the traditional service provider option and rely on strangers to come into the house. It is more economical to continue and expand what we're doing today rather than retreating from it."

Denver said all special needs children and adults are different, and that the DHHR should not approach the situation with a one-size-fits-all solution. She said although the families of higher-functioning individuals with disabilities may not be affected as much by the proposed changes, severely-disabled individuals like Colin would lose out on much-needed services.

"My son has to have eyeballs on him 24-hours a day, and they are proposing an across-the-board cut that's going to affect children that are severe, like my child, the same way it's going to affect a higher-functioning child that doesn't need as much support," Denver said. "Having done this and knowing what it's like, I am here in support of all the families who are terrified by this change and here to beg that you understand that our children, we love ours exactly like you love yours and we have to be their advocates."

To submit a comment on the proposed changes, email IDDWComment@wv.gov or mail to the WV Bureau for Medical Services, HCBS Unit, 350 Capitol Street, Room 251, Charleston, WV 25301.

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