Preeclampsia Test Can Identify Dangerous Condition Quickly, at Home

A new test can quickly identify preeclampsia, a common and dangerous condition during pregnancy and help keep mothers and babies healthy and safe.

When Jessi Prizinsky was pregnant with her first child, her feet started swelling.

“Well, you hear, everybody tell you, you know, the swollen ankles, and get your feet up and all that,” Prizinsky said. “That was where I thought, ‘OK.’ And then it started to be, it kind of looks like it’s in my arms and hands, too.”

Most women expect some swelling when they are pregnant. But these symptoms can also be signs of preeclampsia.

It’s a complication of pregnancy that raises the mother’s blood pressure and affects the blood flow to the placenta. This can lead to smaller or premature babies. Untreated, it can be fatal to mom, or baby, or both.

Fast, easy test developed

Researchers at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center have developed a fast, easy test to diagnose preeclampsia. That’s where Dr. Kara Rood practices maternal and fetal medicine.

“One of the hard parts with preeclampsia is there’s a lot of symptoms of just pregnancy alone, and other medical conditions that have similar symptoms that the women experience, like high blood pressure, headaches, changes in vision. Those can be attributed to a lot of other things,” Rood said.

Preeclampsia is more serious if it occurs earlier in the pregnancy, or in a woman who had high blood pressure before getting pregnant.

Rood says managing this condition early is best for both mothers and babies.

“Without the certainty of this test aiding in the diagnosis,” she said, “we as providers are definitely overcautious, as this is definitely something we don’t want to miss because of the life-threatening results of a misdiagnosis for moms and babies.”

Listen to your body

Because of her preeclampsia, Prizinsky was induced three weeks early. She had a successful second pregnancy and has this advice for other women.

“The biggest thing is listening to your body,” she said.

The test is so easy, women can take it at home, and preeclampsia can be treated as soon as it develops. The researchers expect the test to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the next few years.

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New Test Can Identify Dangerous Condition in Pregnancy

A new test can quickly identify a common and dangerous condition during pregnancy and help keep mothers and babies healthy and safe. VOA’s Carol Pearson has more.

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Low-Level Flooding Dampening Tourists’ Enthusiasm

As climate change heats up, we can expect more extreme weather events, more hurricanes and droughts over time. But small flooding events will also become more common, and while not catastrophic, according to a new report, these events are taking a toll on some local communities. VOA’s Kevin Enochs reports.

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Students Worldwide Skip School to Protest Global Warming

They’re angry at their elders, and they’re not taking it sitting down.

Students worldwide are skipping class Friday to take to the streets to protest their governments’ failure to take sufficient action against global warming.

The coordinated “school strikes,” being held from the South Pacific to the edge of the Arctic Circle, were inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who began holding solitary demonstrations outside the Swedish parliament last year.

Since then, the weekly protests have snowballed from a handful of cities to hundreds, driven by social media-savvy students and dramatic headlines about the impact of climate change.

Thunberg, who was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, was cheered for her blunt message to leaders at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland this year, when she told them: “I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day.”

Friday’s rallies are expected to be one of the biggest international actions yet. Protests were under way or planned in cities in more than 100 countries, including Hong Kong; New Delhi; Wellington, New Zealand; and Oulo, Finland.

In Berlin some 10,000 protesters, most of them young students, gathered in a downtown square, waving signs with slogans such as “There is no planet B” and “Climate Protection Report Card: F” before a march through the capital’s government quarter. The march was to end with a demonstration outside Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office.

Organizer Carla Reemtsma, a 20-year-old university student, said social media had been key in reaching people directly to coordinate the massive protests in so many different locations, noting that she was in 50 WhatsApp groups and fielding some 30,000 messages a day.

“It’s really important that people are getting together all over the world, because it’s affecting us all,” she said.

Critics, supporters

Some politicians have criticized the students, suggesting they should be spending their time in school, not on the streets.

“One can’t expect children and young people to see all of the global connections, what’s technically reasonable and economically possible,” said the head of Germany’s pro-business Free Democratic Party, Christian Lindner. “That’s a matter for professionals.”

But scientists have backed the protests, with thousands signing petitions in support of the students in Britain, Finland and Germany.

“We are the professionals and we’re saying the young generation is right,” said Volker Quaschning, a professor of engineering at Berlin’s University of Applied Sciences.

“We should be incredibly grateful and appreciative of their bravery,” said Quaschning, one of more than 23,000 German-speaking scientists to sign a letter of support this week. “Because in a sense, it’s incredibly brave not to go to school for once.”

Scientists have warned for decades that current levels of greenhouse gas emissions are unsustainable, so far with little effect. In 2015, world leaders agreed in Paris to a goal of keeping the Earth’s global temperature rise by the end of the century well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

Yet at present, the world is on track for an increase of 4 degrees Celsius, which experts say would have far-reaching consequences for life on the planet.

“As a doctor, I can say it makes a big difference whether you’ve got a fever of 41 degrees Celsius (105.8 Fahrenheit) or 43 C (109.4 F),” said Eckart von Hirschhausen, a German scientist who signed the call supporting striking students. “One of those is compatible with life, the other isn’t.”

Other action

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have publicly welcomed the student protests, even as their policies have been criticized as too limited by environmental activists.

In France, activist groups launched legal action this week for failing to do enough to fight climate change, citing a similar successful effort in the Netherlands.

In Germany, environmental groups and experts have attacked government plans to continue using coal and natural gas for decades to come. Activists say that countries like Germany should fully “decarbonize” by 2040, giving less-advanced nations a bit more time to wean themselves off fossil fuels while still meeting the Paris goal globally.

Other changes needed to curb greenhouse gas emissions include ramping up renewable energy production, reining in over-consumption culture now spreading beyond the industrialized West and changing diets, experts say.

“The fight against climate change is going to be uncomfortable, in parts, and we need to have a society-wide discussion about this,” said Quaschning.

That conversation is likely to get louder, with several U.S. presidential hopefuls planning to campaign on climate change.

Luisa Neubauer, one of the Berlin group organizing Fridays for Future, said politicians should take note of the young.

“For the European elections in May, we’re urging everyone to think about whether they want to give their vote to a party that doesn’t have a plan for the future and the climate,” she said.

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Students Worldwide Skip Class to Demand Action on Climate

They’re angry at their elders, and they’re not taking it sitting down.

Students worldwide are planning to skip class Friday and take to the streets to protest their governments’ failure to take sufficient action against global warming.

The coordinated ‘school strike’ was inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who began holding solitary demonstrations outside the Swedish parliament last year.

Since then, the weekly protests have snowballed from a handful of cities to hundreds, driven by social media-savvy students and dramatic headlines about the impact of climate change.

Thunberg, who was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, was cheered for her blunt message to leaders at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland this year, when she told them: “I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day.”

​Protests in 100 countries 

Friday’s rallies are expected to be one of the biggest international actions yet. A website coordinating the protests lists events in more than 100 countries, from New Zealand to the United States.

Some politicians have criticized the students, suggesting they should be spending their time in school, not on the streets.

“One can’t expect children and young people to see all of the global connections, what’s technically reasonable and economically possible,” said the head of Germany’s pro-business Free Democratic Party, Christian Lindner. “That’s a matter for professionals.”

But scientists have backed the protests, with thousands signing petitions in support of the students in Britain, Finland and Germany.

“We are the professionals and we’re saying the young generation is right,” said Volker Quaschning, a professor of engineering at Berlin’s University of Applied Sciences.

“We should be incredibly grateful and appreciative of their bravery,” said Quaschning, one of more than 14,000 German-speaking scientists to sign a letter of support this week. “Because in a sense, it’s incredibly brave not to go to school for once.”

Decades of warning

Scientists have warned for decades that current levels of greenhouse gas emissions are unsustainable, so far with little effect. In 2015, world leaders agreed in Paris to a goal of keeping the Earth’s global temperature rise by the end of the century well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). 

Yet at present, the world is on track for an increase of 4 degrees Celsius, which experts say would have far-reaching consequences for life on the planet.

“As a doctor, I can say it makes a big difference whether you’ve got a fever of 41 degrees Celsius (105.8 Fahrenheit) or 43 C (109.4 F),” said Eckart von Hirschhausen, a German scientist who signed the call supporting striking students. “One of those is compatible with life, the other isn’t.”

Policies don’t go far enough

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have publicly welcomed the student protests, even as their policies have been criticized as too limited by environmental activists.

In France, activist groups launched legal action this week for failing to do enough to fight climate change, citing a similar successful effort in the Netherlands . 

In Germany, environmental groups and experts have attacked government plans to continue using coal and natural gas for decades to come. Activists say that countries like Germany should fully “decarbonize” by 2040, giving less-advanced nations a bit more time to wean themselves off fossil fuels while still meeting the Paris goal globally.

Other changes needed to curb greenhouse gas emissions include ramping up renewable energy production, reigning in over-consumption culture now spreading beyond the industrialized West and changing diets, experts say. 

“The fight against climate change is going to be uncomfortable, in parts, and we need to have a societywide discussion about this,” said Quaschning.

That conversation is likely to get louder, with several U.S. presidential hopefuls planning to campaign on climate change.

Luisa Neubauer, one of the Berlin group organizing Fridays for Future, said politicians should take note of the young. 

“For the European elections in May, we’re urging everyone to think about whether they want to give their vote to a party that doesn’t have a plan for the future and the climate,” she said.

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Deep in US Oil Country, Students Set to March for Climate

Oil is everywhere in Oklahoma, says local student Luke Kerr.

But that has not deterred him from planning a protest calling for its phasing out in the state’s capital city on Friday – mirroring similar events due to be staged around the world by students skipping school.

“It is very important that strikes and marches take place in fossil-fuel producing areas of the country, like Oklahoma,” the high school senior said on Thursday.

“We are showing the rest of the country that we can fight for climate.”

With strikes planned in at least 168 U.S. cities and towns, mostly progressive communities, a handful of them like that set up by Kerr stand out for taking place deep in oil country.

The students are taking their cue from Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg whose weekly “school strike for climate” has sparked a global movement.

The school strike movement – which hopes to raise awareness on climate change and force policymakers to take action – has taken the world by storm in recent months, prompting school walkouts mostly in Europe and Australia.

Kerr and his fellow student protesters will rally just feet away from monumental, mock oil derricks next to the State Capitol in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma ranks fourth among all 50 states for oil production, whose burning is blamed for climate change. The southern state recently left its mark on the country when its former attorney general, Scott Pruitt, angered environmentalists due to his skepticism of mainstream climate science when he headed the Environmental Protection Agency.

About 38 percent of Oklahomans do not believe in global warming, an eight percentage point difference from the national average, according to a 2018 survey by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

In the adjacent state of Colorado, 7-year-old Forest Olson has been the driving force behind another climate rally in an area that is also among the country’s top fossil fuel producers.

The mountainous state ranks fifth nationally for its crude oil production, and tenth for coal, federal data shows.

But Olson, a first grader who lives outside the remote town of Telluride, is rallying high school and elementary school students there who have agreed to follow his lead to demonstrate on the county court house’s steps.

The young boy is witnessing the effects of climate change first hand, said his mother Josselin Lifton-Zoline, including reduced snowpacks on nearby ski slopes.

Snowpacks are expected to continue decreasing in size and affect water resources in the western United States, according to the National Climate Assessment, a U.S. government report.

So Olson recently wrote to the town newspaper and spoke to his fellow pupils about taking to the streets.

“I love Earth and I don’t want it to be a disaster,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

In Alaska’s capital city, Anchorage, German exchange student Maxim Unruh, said he had been inspired to bring the movement to this oil-rich state after a friend back home helped with Berlin’s first youth climate strike in December.

The 17-year-old high school senior said he expected some push back for exporting ideas perceived by some as foreign but had prepared a response.

“The climate crisis is a problem in the whole world, and it doesn’t matter from where – I’ll fight for climate justice,” he said.

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Study: C-Sections 50 Times More Deadly in Africa

The death rate among women undergoing a C-section to deliver a baby is about 50 times higher in Africa than in most wealthy nations, researchers said Friday.

One in 200 women dies during or soon after a cesarean in a sampling of nearly 3,700 births across 22 African countries, they reported in The Lancet Global Health.

By comparison, maternal mortality is about one woman per 10,000 operations in Britain. Death rates related to C-sections are roughly the same across most developed countries.

Urgent need to improve safety

“The findings highlight the urgent need for improved safety for the procedure,” said researchers led by Bruce Biccard, a professor at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

Preventable C-section deaths mostly stemmed from a ruptured uterus, in mothers who had pre-existing placental complications, bleeding before birth or during surgery, and problems related to anesthesia.

“Improvement of C-section surgical outcomes could substantially improve both maternal and neonatal mortality,” Biccard said.

He also called for a better assessment of the risk related to bleeding, and less restrictive use of drugs to treat post-partum hemorrhaging.

In many African nations, there is a chronically short supply of blood for transfusions.

Blood products with a greater shelf life and better use of anesthesia by non-doctors — through mobile and online training, for example — could also help boost survival rates, the researchers said.

Surgical study

The findings are part of the Africa Surgical Outcomes Study, which tracks all patients who received surgery at 183 hospitals across the 22 countries for seven days.

C-sections accounted for a third of all surgeries in the period covered, the study found.

Making C-sections more easily available could also avoid potentially lethal complications, the authors noted.

Of the cases examined, 75 percent were classified as “emergency surgery,” with mothers arriving at the operating room with high-risk conditions.

“Paradoxically, while many countries are aiming to reduce cesarean delivery rates, increasing the rate remains a priority in Africa,” Biccard said.

C-section double worldwide

Worldwide, the number of C-sections has nearly doubled over the last 20 years, reaching unprecedented proportions in some countries, recent research has highlighted.

In Brazil, Egypt and Turkey, for example, more than half of all births are done via C-section.

But in close to a quarter of nations surveyed, many in Africa, use of the procedure is significantly lower than average.

It is estimated that the operation is medically necessary 10-15 percent of the time.

In 2015, doctors performed 29.7 million C-sections worldwide, 21 percent of all births.

This was up from 16 million in 2000, or 12 percent of all births.

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Researchers Develop Effective Treatment for Sickle Cell Anemia

Sickle cell anemia afflicts many millions of people across the globe, mostly of African heritage and including some 100,000 African Americans in the United States. Now, researchers believe they may have discovered an effective treatment for the painful and debilitating disease. Faith Lapidus reports.

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Study Warns of Risks from Inactive Ingredients in Drugs 

A new study is warning patients that if they feel worse after taking a new medication, it might not be because of the drug but rather an inactive ingredient in it.  

 

The report published Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine says medications often contain “inactive” ingredients that can cause allergic reactions or gastrointestinal reactions in people sensitive to specific compounds. 

 

Drugs can contain inactive compounds like gluten, lactose or specific dyes that can cause a reaction in certain patients. 

 

“There’s a tremendous underappreciation of the potential impact that inactive ingredients may have,” said Dr. Giovanni Traverso, a gastroenterologist who spurred the research after his celiac patient’s trouble with medication that contained gluten as an inactive compound. 

 

The study analyzed data on inactive ingredients from a database of more than 42,000 prescription and over-the-counter medicines. It found that an average pill contains eight inactive ingredients, but some contain 20 or even more.   

 

While most of the worrisome ingredients are in small amounts in most medications, the researchers pointed out that 39 percent of seniors take at least five prescription medicines daily, so even the tiniest amount can add up.  

 

Drug manufacturers already put warnings on medications that contain refined peanut oil. And the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering a proposal that recommends adding gluten information to drug labels.

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US Health Officials Move to Tighten Sales of E-Cigarettes

U.S. health regulators are moving ahead with a plan designed to keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of teenagers by restricting sales of most flavored products in convenience stores and online.

 

The new guidelines, first proposed in November, are the latest government effort to reverse what health officials call an epidemic of underage vaping.

 

E-cigarettes typically heat a flavored nicotine solution into an inhalable vapor. Federal law bans their sale to those under 18, but 1 in 5 high school students report using e-cigarettes, according to the latest survey published last year .

 

Under proposed guidelines released Wednesday by the Food and Drug Administration, e-cigarette makers would restrict sales of most flavored products to stores that verify the age of customers entering the store or include a separate, age-restricted area for vaping products. Companies would also be expected to use third-party identity-verification technology for online sales.

 

Companies that don’t follow the requirements risk having their products pulled from the market, the FDA said.

 

“The onus is now on the companies and the vaping industry to work with us to try and bring down these levels of youth use, which are simply intolerable,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in an interview. The restrictions won’t apply to three flavors that the FDA says appeal more to adults than teenagers: tobacco, menthol and mint.

 

The FDA will accept comments on the guidelines for 30 days before finalizing them later this year.

 

Anti-smoking activists have questioned whether the in-store restrictions will be enough to stop the unprecedented surge in teen vaping. The FDA has little authority over how stores display and sell vaping products. Instead, critics say the agency is essentially telling companies to self-police where and how their products are sold.

 

“FDA continues to nibble around the edges and that will not end the epidemic,” said Erika Sward, of the American Lung Association, which has called on the FDA to remove all flavored e-cigarettes from the market.

 

Health experts say nicotine is harmful to developing brains, and some researchers worry that addicted teens will eventually switch from vaping to smoking.

 

Under regulations developed by the Obama administration, manufacturers were supposed to submit e-cigarettes for safety and health review by August 2018. But Gottlieb delayed the deadline until 2022, saying both the agency and industry needed more time to prepare. Under Wednesday’s update, the FDA will move the deadline to 2021.

 

Still, the American Lung Association and several other anti-smoking groups are suing the FDA to begin reviewing the safety and health effects of e-cigarettes immediately.

 

 

 

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UN: DR Congo Intercommunal Violence Was Orchestrated

United Nations investigators say intercommunal attacks that killed more than 500 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo were orchestrated. The investigators from the U.N. human rights office in Congo say the attacks may amount to crimes against humanity.

The clashes between the Banunu and Batende communities took place in Yumbi territory, in Mai-Ndombe province, between December 16 and 18.

U.N. investigators who went there found the violence was planned and carried out with the support of traditional chiefs.

U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani says the investigators verified at least 535 people were killed and more than 100 others injured.

“These figures are most likely an underestimate,” she said. “The number of casualties is believed to be much higher as the bodies of some who died are believed to have been thrown into the Congo River. It is also not possible to confirm the number of people who are still missing as an estimated 19,000 people were displaced by the violence, 16,000 of whom crossed over into the Republic of Congo.”

Shamdasani says fights between the two communities over land and fishing resources have broken out in the past, but never on this scale.

She says the violence was triggered by a dispute over the burial of a Banunu chief. She says the similarity of the attacks carried out over a three-day period across four different villages indicates prior consultation and organization.

“Certain chiefs of the Batende-majority villages were cited by many sources as having taken part in the planning of the attacks. The investigation concluded that the crimes documented in Yumbi may amount to crimes against humanity of murder, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence, as well as persecution,” said Shamdasani.

The report warns violence is likely to flare up again if the tensions and resentment between the two communities are allowed to fester.

The U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, is calling for the perpetrators of the crimes to be punished.

She is also urging the government to establish a truth and reconciliation process to address the problems between the Banunu and Batende communities and prevent further violence.

 

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Americans in Cool States Misjudge Threat From Rising Heat Waves

Americans most at risk from more frequent and intense heat waves tend to misjudge the deadly dangers hot spells can pose to their health, scientists said on Tuesday.

People’s vulnerability to heat waves is growing as cooler states become hotter, in part because air conditioning and other ways to cool down are less common there, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

Right now, people in cooler areas “don’t experience hotter weather as frequently,” said co-author Peter Howe from Utah State University. That means “they have less of that experience… to handle those hot days.”

Global temperatures are on course for a 3 to 5 degrees Celsius (5 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit) rise this century, overshooting a global target of limiting the increase to 2C (3.6F) or less, the U.N. World Meteorological Organization has said.

In the United States, hot years are projected to soon become more common as annual average temperatures — already a degree higher than in 1901 — continue to rise, according to the National Climate Assessment, a U.S. government report.

After surveying more than 9,000 people in all 50 states, researchers carrying out the heat wave study discovered that people in northern states, including in the northern Midwest, had fewer health concerns about extreme heat than those living in the country’s south.

Residents of the normally temperate Rocky Mountains and Appalachians were among the least concerned by extreme heat, the study said, while those in sweltering Hawaii, Texas and Louisiana were most worried.

But previous research has shown that as climate change pushes temperatures up, residents of the northeastern United States and those living in high elevations are at particularly high risk of heat-related complications, the researchers said.

That’s because they often lack air conditioning and other means of combatting extreme heat, and are less acclimatized to potentially dangerous temperatures.

Heat can exacerbate existing health conditions and contribute to heat strokes, dehydration and heat exhaustion, Howe said.

Elderly people also were often oblivious to the risks of extreme heat to their health, even though they constitute one of the highest risk groups, the findings showed.

“People generally, if they are older, they don’t consider themselves to be elderly,” he said — and so don’t see themselves as particularly at risk.

Heat in 2017 killed more people than any other weather-related disaster except floods, according to the National Weather Service. Over the last 30 years heat has been the biggest cause of weather-related deaths.

A 2014 study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives said a 5 degree Fahrenheit increase in average temperature would lead an extra 1,900 deaths per summer across 105 U.S. cities.

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