What Happens If an Ebola Case Lands at JFK?

Last Saturday, New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport started conducting the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's enhanced Ebola screening. JFK became the first out of five U.S. airports, including Washington-Dulles, Newark Liberty, Chicago-O'Hare, and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta international airports, to begin the special screening exercise. The discovery that Amber Vinson -- the second Texas nurse who contracted Ebola -- was allowed to board a commercial airliner from Ohio to Texas while running a fever begs an obvious question for New Yorkers: What happens if an infected passenger arrives at JFK?More »

New York Health Commissioner's Ebola Plan? Purell

Photo credit: johnwilliamsphd via Compfight cc

New York State's acting health commissioner has a couple easy tips for people afraid of Ebola: Clean your hands and get a flu shot.

"The symptoms of many viral illnesses, they always begin the same," said Dr. Howard Zucker, at a press conference convened today by Governor Andrew Cuomo to discuss how the state was dealing with Ebola.

Ebola, just like the flu, starts with a fever, sore throat, headache, and muscle weakness. If a patient came in to his office with those starting symptoms, Zucker said, "I would ask, 'Have you had the flu shot?' and if you say yes, I'd say, 'OK, you probably don't have the flu.' "

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Symptoms of Ebola May Include Fever, Vomiting, Xenophobia

Categories: Health Care

WFAA via Twitter. h/t Dallas Observer
A man experiencing Ebola-like symptoms was taken from a clinic in Frisco, Texas, to a Dallas hospital.
After New York Republican gubernatorial hopeful Rob Astorino announced his plan to save us all from Ebola, we were curious whether he'd get any traction with this whole banning-all-travel-from-West Africa thing. Turns out the response to his words might be...biological.

Astorino spoke only a day before the death of Thomas Edward Duncan, an announcement from the Centers for Disease Control regarding increased screening at airports, and news that a man in Frisco, Texas, showing Ebola-like symptoms, had been taken to the hospital out of "an abundance of caution."

Some studies suggest contagious diseases can actually have direct effects on what societies consider to be moral, and on how people feel about outsiders. It's something University of British Columbia professor Mark Schaller calls "the behavioral immune system."

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Rob Astorino Has a Plan to Save Us From Ebola

Categories: Health Care
Rob Astorino, New York's Republican gubernatorial candidate, grandstanded for the cameras Tuesday, demanding that New York City airports cease receiving flights from West Africa, in order to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

"God help us if Ebola comes into New York because we were afraid to offend someone," he intoned, with the United Nations building providing a backdrop of the requisite gravitas. "I therefore call on the FAA today to halt air travel to New York area airports [from affected West African nations] until proper protocols are in place."

Astorino's announcement came only a day before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that it will be increasing screening procedures for the virus at major U.S. airports, including JFK and Newark International.

The candidate's remarks didn't go over very well with his opponent, Governor Andrew Cuomo.

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Women at Fordham Say School Violates Its Own Birth Control Policy

Categories: Health Care
When condoms materialize at Fordham University events, it's easy to jump to one conclusion: culture war. The "Condom Drops" have been part of a series of incognito protests at the Catholic university by a student group called SAGES (Students for Sex Equality Gender and Safety), against a religious administration they consider "sex negative."

Along with the latex deliveries (which flout Fordham's rules against giving out contraception on campus), SAGES has anonymously live-tweeted meetings about sexual health on campus and set up a petition demanding co-ed dorms, free access to birth control, and a free-speech zone where student groups can share materials not preapproved by the administration.

The school responded, tweeting that it doesn't prohibit birth control -- just its distribution on campus. "Secret protests are fun, but at college, we debate ideas rather than litter about them," retorted the school's Rose Hill Student Life office, which invited SAGES to come forward for a discussion. "Instead of anonymity...try some Fordham values this Homecoming: open debate and respect for beliefs and traditions of others."

SAGES has yet to RSVP.

But in the midst of the "fun" back-and-forth lurks a more startling allegation. Two women have come forward saying that the school's medical center has violated its own policies regarding providing hormonal birth control for physical health reasons.

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City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito Tweets That She Has High-Risk HPV

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Image via Twitter
City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito used Twitter Sunday night to announce that she's been diagnosed with high-risk human papillomavirus, or HPV, a common sexually transmitted infection. The speaker added that she needs to undergo a biopsy to test for cervical cancer. The announcement immediately generated a wave of headlines, with the Daily News describing it as a "health bombshell".

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Clinic Not Liable For Nurse Telling Sister About Boyfriend's STD, High Court Rules

Wikimedia Commons
New York State Court of Appeals in Albany.
In July 2010, a man entered the Guthrie Clinic in Coning, New York to receive treatment for a sexually transmitted disease. As it happened, a nurse at the clinic knew the man, identified only as "John Doe" in court documents. Doe was the boyfriend of the nurse's sister-in-law.

So the nurse texted her sister-in-law to inform her that Doe had an STD. The sister-in-law then forwarded the message to Doe, who filed a complaint with the clinic. Guthrie acknowledged the misconduct and fired the nurse. Doe sued the Guthrie Clinic, charging that the institution is liable for the disclosure of his personal information.

Last week, however, the state's highest court ruled against Doe, clearing Guthrie of legal liability. The clinic should not be held responsible for a worker's action that "is not within the scope of employment," the New York State Court of Appeals stated in a majority decision.

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Type Miscast: Why Arlene Mercado's Punitive Damages Might Have Been Higher Had Her Patient Survived

Ellen Weinstein
In July, as we detailed in last week's cover story, a Queens jury ordered Dr. Arlene Mercado to pay $8 million in damages for the death of her patient, six-year-old Claudialee Gomez-Nicanor. Mercado, jurors concluded, was fully liable for the girl's death because she misdiagnosed her with type 2 diabetes when the girl actually had type 1.

The award is not final. Mercado's defense team filed a motion asking the judge to decrease the punitive portion of the payout and the judge is currently contemplating it.

It's a sizable sum--much higher than what malpractice insurance providers cover.Yet it seems small when compared to nine-figure medical malpractice awards that make headlines. In April, for instance, a New York jury doled out a $130 million award.

Why was the award in Mercado's case so much lower?

Because her patient died.

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Type Miscast: Researchers See Potential Cure for Diabetes in Near Future

Categories: Health Care

Ellen Weinstein
"I believe it won't be long before we can cure diabetes with a number of different therapies depending on the needs of the patient," Dr. Paolo Fiorina of Boston Children's Hospital said this summer. "Then, if the right screening techniques for diabetes could be developed, it would be entirely possible in many cases that we could prevent the disease from ever developing in children."

Diabetes can be fatal. The death of Queens six-year-old Claudialee Gomez-Nicanor, which we detailed in this week's cover story, illustrated how a child can go from seemingly healthy to intensive care in a matter of weeks if the condition is not properly treated.

As Fiorina declared, though, research is quickly gaining ground on the disease. His optimism is rooted in a discovery he and his colleagues published earlier this year: They pinpointed the specific mechanism that causes diabetes.

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Type Miscast: Misdiagnosis Is Most Common Cause of Medical Malpractice Payouts

Categories: Health Care

Ellen Weinstein
A misdiagnosis led to the death of Queens six-year-old Claudialee Gomez-Nicanor.
As we detailed in this week's cover story, six-year-old Claudialee Gomez-Nicanor died from complications related to her type 1 diabetes. When she arrived at the hospital after a night of nausea and fatigue, her blood sugar was five times the normal level. Her body had needed insulin to process that glucose. but she did not get insulin because her doctor, pediatric endocrinologist Arlene Mercado, appeared to have diagnosed her with type 2 diabetes, which is not as urgent and can be fixed through diet, exercise, and medication.

The misdiagnosis was both tragic and confounding. Type 2 diabetes is extremely rare in kids under 10. Children's diabetes expert Craig Alter testified in court that if a six-year-old has diabetes, there's a "99.99 percent" chance it's type 1. The jury found Mercado 100 percent liable for Claudialee's death.

The case speaks to a greater trend. With all the national focus on health care policy and making sure everyone has access to treatment, it's easy to forget about one of the industry's most fundamental yet complicated issues: accurate diagnosis.

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