Senate Clears Procedural Hurdle On Zika $1.1 Billion Funding Bill

CBS Evening News has reported that the Senate moved closer to approving the $1.1 billion in new funding that will help fight the spread of the Zika virus, “but that’s only about half” of what President Obama asked for.

The House, meanwhile, “wants even less: $622 million.” Health officials are cautioning that the mosquito borne illness will become more prominent in the US soon. There are already more than 100 cases in Florida. With the coming summer months just around the corner, there is no doubt that this will be the case.

Dr. Jon LaPook who is  the chief medical correspondent for CBS News and is Professor of Medicine at the NYU School of Medicine quoted CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden as stating that the lack of funding is “mind-boggling. This is no way to fight an epidemic. We’re basically nickeling and diming the response when we know there are urgent needs that aren’t getting met.” LaPook added, “I’m hearing similar sentiments at every level of public government.” LaPook concluded by saying, “you have to ask yourself, as public health officials are asking, do we really need to wait for” Zika to spread locally “before springing into action and mounting a full court press that is so desperately needed.”

The Washington Post reported that the “House Republicans are balking at the proposal, as they plan to move their own aid bill later this week.” By a 68-29 vote, the Senate “cleared a key procedural step that will now allow senators to adopt a bipartisan spending amendment…that beat out two competing proposals.” It is unclear, however, how soon Senate leaders will be able to “settle their differences with House Republicans, who are reluctant to approve new funds unless they are offset with cuts elsewhere in the budget.”

Howard Fensterman Philanthropist

Howard Fensterman
Howard Fensterman Philanthropist

Howard Fensterman is Managing Partner of Abrams, Fensterman, Fensterman, Eisman, Formato, Ferrara & Wolf, LLP, a New York based law firm that has achieved an outstanding reputation for its leadership in both the law and for the significant role the firm plays in an array of corporate citizenship activities.

When it comes to citizenship and charitable giving, Mr. Fensterman leads by example; giving of his time and donating money to several local and national organizations that have, over the years, become an important part of his life.

Fundamentally, Howard Fensterman is a strong believer in the concept of tzedakah (pronounced: se-duh-kah), which literally translates to justice or righteousness. Frequently, the word tzedakah is used in reference to charity. While in traditional terms the word is recognized as a religious obligation, today, it is more often understood as a spontaneous act of goodwill.

Mr. Fensterman’s philanthropy is extensive, with focus on two local organizations he is most passionate about. The Chabad of Port Washington and the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America’s Long Island Chapter.  Both organizations are aligned with his core belief that those who have the means are obligated to help those who are in need of help.

“I have been very fortunate in my life. I have a wonderful family at home, and a wonderful Abrams Fensterman family in our offices on Long Island, in New York City, and in Brooklyn and Rochester.   I’m grateful that I am able to enjoy the fruits of the success I’ve had in both the law and from my business

Mr. Fensterman received his J.D. from Georgetown Law Center. He is admitted to practice in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.


Gene Mutations and Cancer Risk

Since Angelina Jolie opened up about her BRCA1 gene mutation, more awareness about this mutation is spreading. More women are getting tested and speaking out about their newly found risks.

What Are the Chances of Getting Breast Cancer if You Have the Gene?

Those that test positive for an abnormal BRCA1, BRCA2, or PALB2 gene are learning their chance for breast cancer is higher than that of the average woman. An average woman without the mutation only has a 12% chance of getting breast cancer in her lifetime according to the  National Cancer Institute, whereas a woman with BRCA1 or BRCA2 has up to an 85% chance of getting breast cancer in her lifetime. The chance for ovarian cancer also increases with the gene mutations to about 16-44% chance compared to just under 2% for the average woman without the mutation. Women with BRCA1 are also more likely to develop estrogen negative cancers, meaning that a cancer’s growth is not caused by the hormone estrogen. Anti-estrogen hormone therapy is not a viable treatment options and since these cancers tend to be more aggressive it’s important they are caught early. BRCA2 mutation caused cancers however can benefit from hormonal therapy according to the American Cancer Society.

BRCA1, BRCA2 Prevention

This information is incredibly important because it gives women a chance to lower their risk through a variety of methods starting with an annual breast MRI at age 25. This is of great significance as BRCA1 and BRCA2 cancers tend to be aggressive and it is important to catch them early. Other risk lowering methods include prophylactic surgery such as a double mastectomy and oopherectomy.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 not only affects women, men are also at risk. Men with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation have an increased chance of developing prostate cancer and a higher lifetime risk of developing male breast cancer. Both women and men with the mutation are also at an elevated risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Those with wth a family history of breast or ovarian cancer should consider being tested for these mutations. Those with  Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry are also more likely to have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation.  

The PALB2 gene mutation increases chance for breast cancer to about 58% percent. Research about this gene is ongoing to find out how it affects the likelihood of developing other cancers such as ovarian and pancreatic.  


Zika Virus Confirmed to Cause Birth Defects

The more researchers learn about the Zika virus, the scarier it becomes. In a new report published in the New England Journal of Medicine, CDC researchers confirm that Zika causes a rare birth defect.

Birth Defect from Zika Virus
An example of an infant with microcephaly, as a result of the Zika Virus in the parent

CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said that “it is now clear” that Zika causes microcephaly, a rare birth defect. In addition, the virus causes several other severe fetal abnormalities. The virus is now being linked to a broad set of complications in pregnancy as well, such as premature birth and eye problems.

“Most of what we’ve learned is not reassuring,” Dr. Ann Schuchat, the principal deputy director of the CDC, said candidly at a White House briefing. “Everything we look at with this virus seems to be a bit scarier than we initially thought.”

Another study published in Science from a team of scientists in Brazil concluded that Zika “targets” human brain cells. After studying human neural stem cells that had been infected with the virus, the scientists found that the cells were misshapen and necrotic.

However, the general public in the United States seems largely unconcerned about Zika virus infection in the continental US, according to The New York Times. However, the CDC has reported that the mosquitoes that carry the virus are present in 30 states, up from the 12 states initially thought. In Puerto Rico there are already hundreds of local transmissions of the virus and Dr. Schuchat said there are potentially hundreds of affected babies in the US territory.

While the CDC does not expect large outbreaks of the Zika virus in the continental US, there will be some local transmissions, and the virus is now expected to be a problem during much of a pregnancy, not just the first trimester. As a result, pregnant women or women expecting to become pregnant are being warned against travel to Zika-infected countries. At the very least they should take precautions against mosquito bites.

Parkinson’s Awareness Month

This April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month. Many organizations use the month of April to bring awareness to the disease. Parkinson’s disease (also known as PD) is a chronic movement disorder that gets worse over time. Over one million people in the US are living with Parkinson’s disease. The cause of this disease is unknown and there is no cure; however; there are various treatments available, such as surgery and medication that can help manage some of the symptoms.

Parkinson’s occurs when crucial nerve cells in the brain, called neurons malfunction and die. These neurons are also responsible for producing dopamine, a chemical that affects movement. When the amount of neurons in the brain is reduced, dopamine is also reduced. A person is unable to control movement normally when the amount of dopamine in the brain is decreased.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include slowness of movement, tremor of the hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face, stiffness of the limbs, and an impaired balance and coordination.

This Saturday, April 30th, the 22nd Parkinson’s Unity Walk will take place in Central Park. Legendary boxer Muhammad Ali’s daughter Maryum is bringing awareness to the disease. Her father was in his late 30s when his family began to notice symptoms of Parkinson’s. Maryum, along with Carol Walton, the CEO of the Parkinson Alliance, will attend the walk. Walton said in an interview with CBS news, “one of the most important messages we are still trying to get out is that if you are diagnosed with Parkinson’s, you absolutely must go see a Movement Disorder specialist, not just a neurologist.” Movement disorder specialists have two more years of training in these types of movement disorders. The type of treatment recommended can make a huge difference in the treatment of Parkinson’s.

The Unity Walk not only raises awareness of the disease but also helps to bring more funds for research, as well as provide a day of community and education. Maryum went on to say, “if my dad had something like a Unity Walk when he was first diagnosed, he wouldn’t have felt so alone.”

Raising Awareness for Autism This April

Although the percentage of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is high, autism awareness remains a pressing need. As a result, the month of April has been designated Autism Awareness Month, a nationwide effort to promote autism awareness, inclusion, and self-determination for all and assure that people with ASD have the opportunity to achieve the highest possible quality of life.

“If we want to promote awareness, let’s raise awareness about the challenges and triumphs faced by individuals with autism,” wrote Scott Badesch, president and CEO of the Autism Society.

Today, more than 3 million individuals live with autism. Many adults being diagnosed with ASD were not properly diagnosed as children and are now finding out they have autism.

Donate to Autism Awareness Today!

Donate to Autism Today

New data from the CDC found that about 1 in 68 children, or 1.5%, were diagnosed with ASD. Between 2002 and 2010, there was an increase in the number of children identified with ASD, and from 2010 to 2012, there has been no change.

However, the CDC has reported that it is too soon to tell if the percentage of children identified with ASD has actually stabilized or is still increasing. This is because the data is based on information from 11 communities in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, and Wisconsin, and while the average percentage of children identified with ASD stayed the same, the percentage had increased significantly for 2 communities.

According to the Autism Society, there is no defined cause for autism, which means there is no way to link any suggested cause to the incidence rate. In addition, there is no cure for autism.

“More research is also needed on treatment and support interventions to determine what is the best treatment and support that can be provided to individuals on the autism spectrum to best address their desire to increase their quality of life each and every day,” according to the society.

Four-Fold Increase In Worldwide Cases of Diabetes Over Past 25 Years – WHO

Approximately 18.2 million Americans have diabetes and almost approximately 5.2 million people are unaware that they have it. Worldwide, a person is actually diagnosed with the disease every 23 seconds. As yet, there is no cure, so it is important that you visit your doctor regularly as people with diabetes need to manage their disease to stay healthy.

The disease consist of problems with the insulin hormone. Normally, the pancreas releases insulin to help your body store and use the sugar and fat from the food you eat. When this normal process does not function properly diabetes. More specifically, diabetes occurs:

  • When the pancreas does not produce any insulin
  • When the pancreas produces very little insulin
  • When the body does not respond appropriately to insulin

Over the period from 1980 to 2014, “diabetes rates nearly doubled.” Currently, “one in 12 people living in the world today have the disease.” The Washington Post has reported that diabetes, “once predominantly a rich-country problem, has become one that disproportionately affects poorer countries,” the findings of a World Health Organization’s “first global report” on diabetes suggest. USA Today points out that around the globe, “diabetes killed 1.5 million people in 2012, according to the WHO report.”

According to the AP (4/7, Keaten), the WHO report attributed “excess weight, obesity, aging and population growth” to the “nearly four-fold increase in worldwide cases of diabetes over the last quarter-century.”.

It is interesting to note that People Who Consume Full-Fat Dairy May Weigh Less, May Be Less Likely To Develop Diabetes Than Those Who Eat Low-Fat Dairy Products. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “people who consume full-fat dairy weigh less and are less likely to develop diabetes than those who eat low-fat dairy products,” the findings of a 3,333-adult, 15-year study published in the journal Circulation suggest. The study revealed that “people with higher levels of three different byproducts of full-fat dairy had, on average, a 46 percent lower risk of getting diabetes than those with lower levels.”

There are many organizations working on a cure for diabetes and donations can be made to American Diabetes Association, as well as many others.

Zika Eradication

A major component of Zika eradication is to produce gamma-irradiated sterile mosquitoes. Within the next fews months IAEA will send a gamma cell irradiator to Brazil’s Moscamed research center in Juazeiro. The irradiator will allow the research center to produce up to 12 million sterilized male mosquitoes per week. The mosquitos will be released in 15 areas that have been hit hard by Zika and will reach up to 750,000 people.

The process begins with using gamma rays to sterilize male mosquito pupae. The mosquitos are then raised in huge numbers and released into the wild where they compete with wild male mosquitos. If enough sterile males mate with females, the chance of producing offspring is significantly lowered, causing a crash in the mosquito population that is spreading the Zika virus.

Throughout the years, this same technique has been used in reducing other problem insects. When populations of moths and fruit flies in the US have been extremely problematic, this technique has brought their populations under control. This method also reduced the problematic and disease spreading tsetse fly problem on the island nation of Zanzibar.

Scientists are hoping this technique will help decrease the mosquito population, especially since results with mosquitoes previously have been not as successful. Gamma-irradiated male mosquitoes don’t seem to be as successful at mating with females as their wild counterparts. In the meantime, scientists are looking for alternative methods to sterilize males which includes using X-rays. The enormous amount of insects needed to keep populations in check is also staggering. A facility in Guatemala has to produce more than 2 billion sterile Medfly fruit flies per week in order to keep populations down in areas of Guatemala and California.

The IAEA admits the gamma method for reducing mosquito populations is still in its pilot stages, and long term results from Italy, Indonesia, and China have been encouraging. The next steps for Zika control is disease reduction as well as more research that verifies survival as well as early detection equipment. The IAEA is currently delivering virus detection equipment to Latin American and Caribbean countries with equipment training to be available in late March.

Long Island Prepares for Zika

Since the middle of March, nearly 480 cases of travel related Zika virus cases have been reported in the US. This is a huge increase from last month when that number was just 100. Some travelers returning from Zika affected areas are bringing the virus back with them.

This Zika Virus Podcast provides more information on the disease and it’s origion.

All over the United States, precautionary measures being taken to deal with Zika. Early this year a Zika virus testing station was set up at the Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow Long Island.

The hospital staff warns of symptoms associated with the Zika virus that should not be taken lightly for those returning from areas such as South American and the Caribbean. Symptoms include a fever, chills, headache and/or muscle aches. Symptoms including pink eye, vomiting and skin rash are also seen in those affected with Zika virus. If you or anyone you know has been traveling to Zika affected areas and is experiencing any of these symptoms they should make their way to the emergency department to be properly evaluated and treated.

With confirmed cases of Zika coming from Long Island it comes at no surprise. Nassau county has one of the biggest Latin populations on the northeast. Many residents frequent Zika affected areas, therefore local testing in this area is essential and testing stations are available. The testing stations at Nassau University Medical Center offer free blood and urine tests are sent to one of three Zika testing labs in the US located in Albany.

If a person tests positive for Zika they are advised to avoid sexual contact for at least four weeks and are advised to avoid getting pregnant for at least four weeks. Zika virus can spread to the pregnant woman’s fetus and cause a birth defect know as microcephaly. Microcephaly is a neurological condition which causes a baby to be born with a small head and brain. It’s also associated with severe developmental issues and can cause death. Pregnant women that test positive for the virus will receive obstetric counseling at the Nassau hospital.

Walk-ins at the Nassau hospital or its satellite health center are currently available for those with symptoms that have traveled to Zika affected areas. Test results are quick and will only take two to three days.

Cancer Treatment – Overview

Cancer can be a debilitating disease. It involves abnormal cell growth that can spread to other parts of the body, if not caught in time (for many cancers). There are over 100 different known cancers that affect humans.

Although, much medical advancement has been made in the treatment and early detection of cancer in the United States and elsewhere, such as Israel, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done before a cure is found. You can help by following a healthy lifestyle, but if you think you might have cancer, contact your physician at once.

Possible signs and symptoms include: a new lump, abnormal bleeding, a prolonged cough, unexplained weight loss, and a change in bowel movements among others. While these symptoms may indicate cancer, they may also occur due to other issues.

Tobacco, obesity, alcohol, not eating health, lack of physical activity and/or heredity issues can be major factors towards acquiring the disease.

Melanoma is a common form of cancer, but is also one of the most treatable if caught in time. Similarly, prostate cancer, if detected early can also be treated and cured with a high degree of certainty. In contrast, certain cancers such as pancreatic cancer is less prone to treatment and the survival rate is unfortunately high among this disease.

Prevention is paramount. Don’t smoke, maintaining a healthy weight, drink alcohol moderately or not at all,, eating plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Make sure you are vaccinated against certain infectious diseases, avoid processed red meat, and avoiding too much exposure to sunlight and go for regular check ups and follow up with preventative procedures; such as a colonoscopy and breast cancer testing.

The chance of survival depends on the type of cancer and extent of disease at the start of treatment, so make sure you visit your doctor on a consistent basis.

Read our articles on the advancements of cancer treatment to stay abreast of the latest medical technologies available.