Health

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More than 200 American Red Cross workers in Michigan went on strike this morning.

Staff members represented by the Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 459 and Teamsters Local 580 walked out because of a dispute over health care benefits.

The strike affects blood collection centers in Kalamazoo, Jackson, Lansing, Flint and parts of northern Michigan.

Monica Stoneking is communications manager for the Great Lakes Region of the American Red Cross.

She says the strike will impact an already-low blood supply.

"That's about 700 units of blood every day that the Great Lakes region needs to collect," Stoneking says. "And if our staff members are on strike, we are limited as to the  number of blood drives we are able to hold."

Stoneking says blood donations are also lower because fewer people donated during Michigan's recent nice weather, because students have been been on spring break.

A New York-based insurance company that allowed unlicensed agents to sell health plans in Michigan has been suspended.

American Medical and Life Insurance Company marketed the limited health plans to customers with specific illnesses, such as cancer. About 2,500 policies were sold in Michigan.

"They're not typically required to provide the same level of coverage, so they cover fewer types of medical expenses than a comprehensive policy," says Michigan’s Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation spokesman Jason Moon.

Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear legal arguments over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The federal health care law has come under fire for a variety of reasons, including changes to the way Americans will get their health care.

Michigan Secretary of State

Michigan drivers now have the option of buying a license plate that will support the state’s organ donor registry.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley has signed a bill meant to encourage organ donation.

The initial plates will cost an extra $35 and renewals will cost $10 more per year.

Richard Pietroski is CEO of Gift of Life Michigan, a nonprofit organ procurement group.

He says about 2.5 million Michigan residents are already registered to become organ donors, but many more are needed.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Click on the photo to see more images.

People in Dexter gathered on the streets this morning to assess the damage from Thursday's tornado, and to help clean up the mess.

DTE trucks lined Central Street in Dexter as crews worked on power lines. Nearby Keri Romine, co-owner of Dexter Mill, says two structures were destroyed on her property.

On Wilson Street, at the Huron Farms subdivision, cleanup crews like the Statewide Disaster Restoration Mobile Command Center were on site. Across the street, two cars had been crushed by a collapsed roof.

Homeowner Ricke Stauffer says he estimates the damage to his home at $20,000 to $30,000. Shingles and siding were ripped from his house, windows were blown out and the deck in his backyard was torn off.

Employees of Busch’s grocery store in Dexter were in the neighborhood giving away bottles of water.

This video was taken by Matthew Altruda at 5:30pm on March 15.

Warning: this video contains graphic language

 

 

 

 

(coutresy of the MSU-Facility for Rare Isotope Beams project)

Michigan State University officials are stepping up their efforts to convince Congress to fully fund a major scientific project on the East Lansing campus.

MSU was expecting the federal government to provide 52 million dollars for the next construction phase of the ‘Facility for Rare Isotope Beams’, or ‘FRIB’ for short.  But the Obama administration is only budgeting $22 million. 

Mark Burnham is an MSU vice president for government affairs.  He says university officials are talking with influential members of Michigan’s congressional delegation , including the chairman of committee that control federal spending on technology.

"We have other members who are key important members of Congress, in both the House and the Senate, and so we want to make sure we’re working through the entire delegation," says Burnham.   

Today, a state senate committee passed a resolution encouraging Congress to fully fund the FRIB project.

Michigan doctors say they are spending too much time writing prescriptions for their patients.

‘Prior authorization’ was intended to reduce the cost to insurance companies by having patients use generic drugs. But doctors say the process is bogged down in Michigan by 150 insurance companies each requiring doctors to fill out different forms.   

Stephen Newman is the president of the Michigan State Medical Society. He says doctors often spend half their time with a patient trying to wade through the ‘prior authorization’  process.

"That’s a waste of time, both for the patient as well as the physician,"  says Newman,  "And it leads to inefficiencies…that leads to emergency room visits that are unnecessary. 

The State Senate Insurance committee today approved legislation to streamline ‘prior authorization’ by requiring all insurance companies use the same form.      

Insurance industry representatives at the committee meeting were divided on the legislation.

Last week, we brought you a series on cancer and the environment.

I put together this visual representation of some of the statistics we learned about cancer and our lives.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan lawmakers might soon take some initial votes on bills related to abortion law in the state.

Legislation awaiting a vote in the Republican-led House would require a doctor or an assistant to do some screening before an abortion to make sure a pregnant woman isn't being forced or coerced to have the abortion against her will. Other bills would provide penalties for coercing a woman to have an abortion against her will.

Courtesy MSU

Scientists from across the nation are in Washington today. They’re asking Congress to support Michigan State University’s $600 million nuclear science facility.

The scientists want lawmakers to declare MSU’s Facility for Rare Isotope Beams a national priority, and to keep funding intact.

Brad Sherrill is chief scientist of what’s called F-RIB. He believes the facility will bring $1 billion into Michigan – including hundreds of new jobs and thousands of scientific visitors

The state of Michigan has ordered a new printer that will allow it to produce 4,000 medical marijuana cards a day.

Rae Ramsdell, who oversees the program, says 40,000 people who don't have cards have been given a tamper-proof letter to show they're qualified to use marijuana for medicinal purposes.

More than 131,000 people have been approved for marijuana. Thousands more serve as caregivers, who are allowed to grow marijuana for up to five people.

anitapatterson / Morguefile

An effort is under way to require autism coverage by insurance companies in Michigan. But mental health advocates want coverage to be mandated for all mental illness.

The autism coverage issue has gotten a lot of attention because Lt. Gov. Brian Calley’s daughter has autism, and he supports the insurance mandate.

But others say lawmakers need to go further.

Dr. Leigh White is assistant director for the Olin Student Health Center at Michigan State University.

She says people are often blamed for their mental illness.  

flickr.com

Michigan health officials are warning people not to eat raw clover sprouts, because they may be contaminated with E. coli bacteria.

The Michigan Department of Community Health says two people were hospitalized after eating the sprouts at sandwich shops in mid and southeast Michigan earlier this month.

Five other people became sick.

Health officials say two confirmed cases of E. coli in Michigan had the same genetic fingerprint as cases in other states. All were  linked to raw clover sprouts eaten at Jimmy John’s restaurants.

An Ottawa County Circuit Court judge is ordering Blue Cross Blue Shield to pay the City of Holland $1.6 million. Holland is one of dozens of communities that sued Blue Cross over variable fees charged on insurance claims filed by employees.  The city claims the insurer didn’t tell them about the fees for 17 years.

Blue Cross Blue Shield spokesperson Helen Stojic says the fees were not hidden.“As the lawsuit proceeds to the appellate courts we’re confident that the legal process will result in a finding that our access fee were known to our customers,” Stojic said.

A chemical used to refinish bathtubs has been linked to 13 deaths – three of them in Michigan.

More people are having their bathtubs refinished or doing it themselves to save money. Many are using products that contain methylene chloride, available at home improvement stores and on the Internet.

The chemical is marketed to the aircraft industry, to strip paint from airplanes. It's also used as a degreaser.

Methylene chloride is colorless, highly volatile and toxic.

bluescreen / Morguefile

An environmental watchdog group has released a report about toxins found inside new cars. It says that “new-car smell” can be harmful to your health. 

The Ecology Center in Ann Arbor says the interiors of the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander, Chrysler 200 S and the Kia Soul had the highest level of hazardous chemicals.

The Honda Civic, Toyota Prius and Honda CRZ had the lowest level of chemical hazards.

Jeff Gearhart of the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor says flame retardants and chemicals in plastics generate gases that can cause health problems.

AndrewH324 / Flickr

University of Michigan students are harnessing the power of Facebook to promote a bone marrow registry drive to take place tomorrow at the Michigan Union.

A Michigan student who recently became ill with a severe bone marrow disease could potentially find the bone marrow donor he needs at tomorrow’s event.

Daniel Lee, a junior at the University of Michigan was diagnosed with aplastic anemia just over a month ago. His condition means his bone marrow no longer produces enough blood cells and he needs an emergency bone marrow transplant.

University of Michigan junior, Jessica Kaltz began planning the bone marrow drive several months ago. She organized the event in partnership with her sorority, Sigma Kappa, and DKMS, a non-profit organization that recruits bone marrow donors.

Kaltz, who says she was unaware one of her classmates might benefit when she came up with the idea, says, “It’s amazing to see how many people care when you put a face to the cause.”

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The stem cell research lab at the University of Michigan has reached a significant milestone.

A stem cell line developed from a 5 day old human embryo donated to U of M’s stem cell program has been certified by the National Institutes of Health. That’s significant, because there are only 147 embryonic stem cell lines approved by the NIH. Many of them are old lines with certain drawbacks for researchers.

Gary Smith is the co-director of the stem cell program.    He says U of M is just one of a handful of universities in the United States making new human embryonic stem cell lines for research.    

“Any investigator across the United States...or really across the world can utilize those embryonic stem cells," says Smith, "And in fact (the researchers) can use those embryonic stem cells to submit research….or for funds from the National Institutes of Health to do research on those lines.”   

Smith says U of M plans to submit another 10 stem cell lines for certification.

The budget plan President Obama delivered to Congress today contains $22 million for Michigan State University's Facility for Rare Isotope Beams.   MSU officials originally expected $55 million.

The future of the nuclear research facility has been in some doubt since January.  The U.S. Secretary of Energy declined to promise federal funding for the project during a stop at the North American International Auto Show.     He said budget constraints had to be considered.

Michigan State University wants the world to know that evolution science pioneer Charles Darwin was a rock star first.

The MSU Museum on Sunday afternoon presents its annual Darwin Discovery Day and this year's theme is "Darwin rocks!" It also marks the opening of a new exhibit entitled "It Started with a Rock Collection: Charles Darwin, Geologist."

Officials at the East Lansing museum say they have received a rock collection from the Shropshire Geological Society in England, where the young Darwin started his collection and scientific investigations.

user JohnE777 / Flickr

Michigan State University’s Human Medicine program is expanding its research facilities far away from East Lansing.

Last month, MSU announced its buying the old Grand Rapids Press building.  This week, developers say they hope to turn an old newspaper building in Flint into a home for MSU medical researchers.

Aron Sousa is an associate dean at the MSU College of Human Medicine.  He says expansions in Grand Rapids and Flint, as well as Midland and Traverse City, reflect the communities’ needs.

“Both the college [of Human Medicine] and the university want to be more active across the state.  We’re the land grant school for the state of Michigan.  We take that mission and that history seriously," says Sousa. 

 MSU is ending some medical programs in Kalamazoo and Saginaw, to make way for new medical schools at Western and Central Michigan Universities.

Conventional wisdom is younger people are able to spring back easier from a divorce.

But Michigan State University sociologist Hui Liu says her research shows it’s just the opposite.

She studied the self-reported health status of more than 12 hundred divorced Americans.  She found the younger the divorced person, the more likely they were to report health problems and for a longer period.

Liu says the effect only lasts as long as the stress of the divorce. 

“What I can see from this study is it’s a transitional effect," says Liu.  

Liu speculates life experience is one reason older divorced people cope better. 

"If you get divorced at an older age, you know how to handle your life," says Liu.      

The study found that eventually divorced people do return to the same level of health as married people. 

 The study appears in the journal Social Science & Medicine.

The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

Lyme disease is spread through blacklegged tick bites, and its prevalence has most notably been in the eastern U.S. and southeastern Canada.

The CDC reports that if the disease is left untreated, the "infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system."

Researchers say incidence rates of the disease have steadily increased as the ticks, and the bacterium they can carry which causes the disease, expand their range.

Now researchers from Michigan State University, the Yale School of Public Health, and many other institutions have mapped the risk areas for Lyme disease.

The researchers say their map provides a baseline for tracking the spread of Lyme disease:

This risk map can assist in surveillance and control programs by identifying regions where human cases are expected and may assist treatment decisions such as the use of antimicrobial prophylaxis following a tick bite.

The map show high risk areas in the northeast, and Wisconsin and Minnesota - and a potential emerging risk spot in southwest Michigan.

More from the Associated Press:

Researchers who dragged sheets of fabric through the woods to snag ticks have created a detailed map pinpointing the highest-risk areas for Lyme disease.

The map shows a clear risk across much of the Northeast, from Maine to northern Virginia. Researchers at Yale University also identified a high-risk region across most of Wisconsin, northern Minnesota and a sliver of northern Illinois. Areas highlighted as "emerging risk" regions include the Illinois-Indiana border, the New York-Vermont border, southwestern Michigan and eastern North Dakota.

The map was published this week based on data from 2004-2007. Researchers say the picture might have changed since then in the emerging areas, but the map is still useful because it highlights areas where tick surveillance should be increased and can serve as a baseline for future research.

A new University of Michigan study finds most parents are hesitant to insist their young children use booster seats when they carpool.  

Public service announcements remind us that children between 4 and 8 years old,  under 4 feet 9 inches tall, must be in a booster seat when riding in a car.    But that message is not convincing most parents to insist on a booster seat when their kids carpool with other children.

A Michigan hospital is working with a robot that’s designed to help people with spinal cord injuries walk again.

DMC Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan in Detroit is one of 10 hospitals in the nation trying out Ekso – a battery-powered exoskeleton.

Patients with spinal cord injuries fit entirely into the robotic frame, which helps them stand and walk.

Diane Patzer was one of three RIM physical therapists who worked with patients during the initial trial of the Ekso.

The Michigan State University Board of Trustees have agreed to move ahead with a half billion dollar nuclear research project, even though federal funding for the project is in some doubt.    

The Facility for Rare Isotope Beams could make MSU a top location for nuclear research.  But U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu suggested earlier this month that federal officials were reevaluating budget priorities and hinted the MSU project may be one of those cut.  

cancer.med.umich.edu

University of Michigan researchers say a drug used to treat advanced breast cancer actually led to an increase in the number of tumor-forming cells.  The FDA revoked its approval of the drug last year.

The drugs Avastin and Sutent were used to shrink tumors and slow the progress of breast cancer.  But the effects didn’t last and when the tumors returned, they were more aggressive.

Dr. Max Wicha is director of U-of-M’s Comprehensive Cancer Center.

msu.edu

Michigan State University will use a $5.8 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to study bacterial diseases in sub-Saharan Africa, the leading cause of death for children in the region.

The AP writes:

The bacterial diseases include pneumonia, sepsis and meningitis and they kill more people in the area than malaria. The Nigeria-based project involves collecting local data on the diseases and promoting the use and development of vaccines.

NASA

Here's some amazing footage of what NASA is calling the largest solar storm in the last eight years. NASA says the storm began at 10:38 p.m. ET on Jan. 22, peaked at 10:59 p.m. and ended at 11:34 p.m.

After the flare, the solar particles hit the Earth this morning. From NASA:

The coronal mass ejection CME collided with Earth's magnetic field a little after 10 AM ET on January 24, 2012. The influx of particles from the CME amplified the solar radiation storm such that it is now considered the largest since October 2003. NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center has categorized it as a "strong" -- or S3 (with S5 being the highest) – storm. Solar radiation storms can affect satellite operations and short wave radio propagation, but cannot harm humans on Earth. Auroras may well be visible tonight at higher latitudes such as Michigan and Maine in the U.S., and perhaps even lower.

How a solar storm turns into northern lights (or southern lights) was always a mystery to me until I saw this video explaining how it works. 

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