Health in the news

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Vitamin B12 deficiency is a common health problem that can have serious consequences – but doctors often overlook it

By Diane Cress  Diane Cress, associate professor of nutrition and food science at Wayne State University, wrote an article about the consequences of vitamin B12 deficiency, and how it is over overlooked by doctors. B12 deficiency is a common problem that affects an estimated 6% to 20% of the U.S. population. Cress outlines the symptoms of B12 deficiency, as well as the absorption process and treatment options.  “One primary symptom of B12 deficiency is fatigue – a level of tiredness or exhaustion so deep that it affects daily life activities. Other symptoms are neurological and may include tingling in the extremities, confusion, memory loss, depression and difficulty maintain balance…” Cress writes. “However, since there can be so many causes for these symptoms, health care providers may overlook the possibility of a B12 deficiency and fail to screen for it…”
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Give thanks: No fall COVID wave in Michigan

By Mike Wilkinson  As Michigan and the nation are just weeks from beginning the fourth year of COVID-19, the signs are remarkably positive, according to new state data released Monday and Tuesday. For the first time since July, Michigan hospitals are treating fewer than 1,000 COVID-19 positive patients. New confirmed cases fell this week to the lowest level since April. The coronavirus positive test rate is now the lowest since May. The good news is widespread: hospitalizations have declined in every region in Michigan after hitting a recent high, state records show. But as Thanksgiving and the holidays approach, other data shows that the virus remains a threat: the state reported 223 deaths on Tuesday, the most since February. Though the deaths spanned several months, including 158 in November and 61 in October, they underscore that the virus is still taking lives daily across Michigan. Among that hardest hit: older residents and those who are unvaccinated or are not fully boosted. “It is very stark,” said Dr. Phil Levy, an emergency medicine physician at Detroit Receiving Hospital and a Wayne State University researcher. “If you’re not up-to-date (on vaccinations) you are exposing yourself to substantial risk.” 
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Detroit police make 60+ mental health runs per day; new program aims to help

By Sarah Grimmer Activists in Detroit have called for a third-party mental health response team. Dr. Gerald Sheiner, a psychiatrist at Sinai-Grace Hospital and professor at Wayne State University, agrees. “Mental health care is at a crisis state in our city and across the country,” Sheiner said. Dr. Sheiner responds to mental health patients at the hospital and says when those patients are having their worst moments, the presence of weapons or intimidating personnel often makes the situation worse. “Patients who experience those type of difficulties are often frightened and think that everyone else is out to do them harm,” he said. “Mental health professionals are the best fit personnel to respond to mental health crisis, but mental health professionals are not available.” With a lack of a mental health response team, Detroit police have been responding to the uptick in mental health calls. The department is responding to an average of 64 mental health runs per day, more than three times as many as in 2020. “64 calls a day is beyond the ability of emergency services to care for in many instances,’ said Sheiner. DPD has been partnering with the Detroit Wayne Integrated Crisis Intervention Team for training and are working with activists and elected officials to create a non-police response program to address non-violent mental health calls. “I think that a straight up mental health response presents someone to intervene who is less threatening to a patient and someone who intervenes who has more experience dealing with a patient in crisis,” said Sheiner.
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Wayne State gets $11M to study impact of air pollution on birth outcomes

By Jena Brooker Detroit is a national leader for the most preterm births – and Wayne State University is setting up a new research center to collect more data on why. WSU in September received an $11.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to investigate how one type of air pollution – volatile organic compounds, or VOCs – contribute to preterm births. The five-year grant has funded the formation of the Center for Leadership in Environmental Awareness and Research (CLEAR), where researchers will study the link between VOCs and adverse birth and health outcomes. “There really hasn’t been a significant body of work that’s been done till this point in time trying to understand the environmental link to that [preterm birth] rate,” said Carol Miller, a civil and environmental engineering professor at Wayne State and co-leader of the new center. Melissa Runge-Morris, a physician and co-leader of CLEAR, said the medical field is lagging in its understanding of how environmental factors contribute to health outcomes compared to lifestyle and genetic factors. “As far as environmental exposures, all of medicine is playing catch up,” she said. “We’re no different here in Detroit.”
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COVID-19 may be to blame for the surge in RSV illness among children. Here’s why

A number of young children are being hospitalized because of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, and it’s happening at an unusual time of year and among older children than in years past. The current RSV outbreak is different from previous outbreaks in several ways: It’s happening in the fall rather than the winter; older children and not just infants are being hospitalized; and cases are occurring that are more serious than in previous years. “The theory is that everyone’s now back together, and this is a rebound phenomenon,” said Jeffrey Kline, a physician and associate chair of research for emergency medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine. Kline runs a national surveillance network that gathers data about viral infections from about 70 hospitals, including four pediatric hospitals. He says those data show that 318 children were hospitalized with acute respiratory illness brought on by RSV in the week starting Oct. 9, compared with 45 hospitalizations in the week starting July 25. “If we think about the relative increase – ninefold increase – that’s not nothing, especially in the pediatric [emergency departments],” Kilne said.   

MSU professor to help lead new $15M suicide prevention research center

A Michigan State University professor will help lead a newly established suicide prevention research center focused on reaching people in the jail system who are at risk of taking their own lives. The National Center for Health and Justice Integration for Suicide Prevention will be funded for five years with a $15 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. The data gathered will be used to notify administrators at three Michigan jails taking part in the studies when someone who is being held is identified as at-risk for suicide and in need of further assessments or support, said Sheryl Kubiak, dean of social work at Wayne State University and director of the Center for Behavioral Health and Justice. Kubiak, who will oversee the study, said the jails involved aren’t yet finalized. She’s hoping it presents another tool for jail staff in identifying people in crisis and addressing that. “Most of the mechanisms that jails have when people come in are self-reporting,” she said, and while staff at every jail ask people during intake if they are suicidal, there are many things that stop people from being honest about their mental state.  
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Black Michiganders got 60% of monkeypox cases, only 17% of vaccines

By Kristen Jordan Shamus  Even though 60% of the people who have gotten monkeypox in Michigan so far are Black, 70% of the doses of the vaccine that can prevent infection or limit symptoms after exposure have gone to white Michiganders. Black residents have gotten just 17% of the doses administered so far in Michigan, new state health department data shows. And when the first doses of Tecovirimat, the antiviral treatment more widely known as Tpoxx, arrived in Michigan, Oakland and Washtenaw counties got them – not Detroit, a majority Black city that has 38% of Michigan’s known monkeypox infections, said Dr. Shira Heisler, a Wayne Health physician and medical director of the Detroit Public Health Sexually Transmitted Diseases Clinic. In those early weeks of the monkeypox outbreak, Heisler said she fielded calls from people concerned they might have the virus. Because her clinic was so short-staffed, she didn’t have anyone else to pick up the phone. She was also testing and treating patients with the virus and administering vaccines. Doses of Tpoxx were “only physically available in two neighboring county health departments,” said Heisler, whose STD clinic is the largest in the state. “I had a patient who was immunosuppressed, HIV-positive, was in significant pain from monkeypox…However, there was no way to physically get the Tpoxx to the patient. I physically couldn’t get it for him,” she said. The patient didn’t have access to transportation and no courier service was available. “So I was going to drive there. Me and the epidemiologist were on the phone int the wee hours of the evening to figure it out…There’s no infrastructure, organizational infrastructure to be able to do this.”   
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Meditation holds the potential to help treat children suffering from traumas, difficult diagnoses or other stressors – a behavioral neuroscientist explains

Hilary Marusak, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at Wayne State University, wrote an article for The Conversation outlining the benefits of meditation for children. Children actively meditating experience lower activity in parts of the brain involved in rumination, mind-wandering and depression, Marusak’s team found in the first brain-imaging study of young people under 18 years old. Over-activity in this collection of brain regions, known as the default mode network, is thought to be involved in the generation of negative self-directed thoughts – such as “I am such a failure” – that are prominent in mental disorders like depression, Marusak writes. She shares findings that meditation techniques were more effective than distraction at quelling activity in that brain network, which reinforced research showing that meditation techniques and martial arts-based meditation programs are effective for reducing pain and stress in children with cancer or other chronic illnesses – and in their siblings – as well as in schoolchildren during the COVID-19 pandemic.  
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With cold and flu season ahead, when should you get your vaccines in the fall?

By Keenan Smith  Kids are returning to school and with fall on the way, cold and flu season isn’t too far off either. Looking ahead, it could be a busy season with cold, flu, COVID-19 and monkeypox all in circulation. While there are vaccines for many of them, it raises a lot of questions about timing. Dr. Teena Chopra, a professor of infectious diseases at Wayne State University, said that based on what’s happening in the southern hemisphere, flu season could be really bad. If you’re one of the Michiganders in line for a flu shot, COVID-19 booster and possibly the monkeypox vaccine, Chopra said in most cases you can get them at the same time. “You know, especially people who don’t want to make multiple trips to get their vaccine shots,” Chopra said.  
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How Michigan universities are educating students about monkeypox

By Keenan Smith  For college students, the fall semester is just days away, and for another school year, there will be concerns about large groups of people in close proximity. It’s not only COVID-19 this year, but also the growing number of cases of monkeypox. No cases have been identified on campuses in Michigan, but they have been reported on a number of other college campuses. Monkeypox is a new challenge for colleges, but lessons learned from COVID-19 could provide a path forward. Wayne State, like other Michigan universities, is launching an information campaign this week for the return to campus for the school’s 25,000 students. “Our efforts are sort of multi-pronged. But the first is always education,” Laurie Lauzon Clabo, the university’s chief health and wellness officer said. She said Wayne State will use lessons learned from COVID-19 to raise awareness about monkeypox, like how it’s spread and symptoms to watch for. “We developed a coronavirus web page for the university’s website. We will do the same for monkeypox,” she said. Regular updates are beginning this week and officials are tapping into campus experts in epidemiology and infectious disease. The university is also working to fight the stigma of monkeypox. “Monkeypox is not a gay disease. It is not a disease of men who have sex with men. It is a disease that is spread by close contact,” Clabo said.  
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Wayne State program to offer mental health support for first responders

By Dave Kinchen and David Komer  We know from recent events more and more first responders are feeling burned out – due to stress, long hours, and graphic things they see that they can’t speak to others about. But now there’s help. “We are talking about police, firefighters, dispatchers, corrections officers and EMS. It’s a different population,” said Dr. Arash Javanbakht, a psychiatrist who directs the Stress, Trauma, and Anxiety Research Clinic at Wayne State University. “They have their own different experiences.” Wayne State’s Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Sciences Department has developed the Frontline Stronger Together Program to give first responders mental and emotional support. “The trauma and stress in this population is different than most other people in the way that, if I have a horrible car accident or I may be assaulted, then I come back to my usual, safe, normal life and I can recover,” said Javanbakht. “For these people – it’s every single day…We have different ways of helping. Part is therapy or psychotherapy, or what we call talking cure. There are different ways of it. Talking about the trauma. Talking about the meanings and perceptions a person has created after trauma…” Treatments also include augmented reality devices to help first responders approach social situations in a healthy way while being treated for job-related PTSD.   
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Michigan Universities prep for threat of on-campus monkeypox outbreaks

By Kristin Jordan Shamus  Thousands of Michigan students will get a crash course about monkeypox when they return to campuses across the state in the days and weeks ahead. Health leaders are trying to limit the spread of monkeypox among a population that could be vulnerable amid a quickly growing outbreak that has swelled to more than 14,000 U.S. cases, including 126 in Michigan as of Aug. 19. College students – who may pack into crowded bars and share drinks at parties or engage in casual hookups – are at risk for contracting the virus, which is known to spread through skin-to-skin contact, exchange of bodily fluids, respiratory droplets and by touching contaminated objects. About 99% of U.S. cases are among men – the vast majority of whom are gay or bisexual and have sex with men – though health leaders say anyone can catch the virus and spread it. Laurie Lauzon Clabo, dean of Wayne State University’s College of Nursing and WSU’s chief health and wellness officer, said leaders learned early in the COVID-19 pandemic that “the more methods of communication we use, the more we reach a broad audience.” For that reason, in addition to posters and flyers around campus, “we’ll be sending out a start-of-the-semester message…in the coming days that will address our COVID policies for fall, and here’s some information about monkeypox and here’s where to find out more about monkeypox,” she said. “We are developing education materials…that are really targeted for a university campus audience: What are the things that put me at risk? What can I do? And so really basic lay-level education is one. The other is ensuring that anyone who wants a test can get a test. That’s really important to us.” A lot of work at universities across the state right now, Clabo said, centers on education and ensuring students understand the risks while not being too alarmist. “We have to be very careful that we don’t speak so loudly that people tune out,” she said. “We want…to dispel some of the myths that we see already surrounding monkeypox, things like the belief that this is a gay disease, that it is only spread through sexual contact. This is a disease of close personal contact, skin-to-skin contact, sharing drinks, utensils, touching contaminated surfaces…A student who is not gay is not immune. The outbreaks we’ve seen in the United States are more likely as a result of a social network that has close personal contact, and those outbreaks could have just as easily occurred in a public gym or other kinds of congregate settings.”  
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Michigan supplied $40M for marijuana research. Here’s what it’s funding

Two Michigan universities and a California-based marijuana research group are using about $40 million in Michigan marijuana tax revenue to research the therapeutic effects of cannabis on veterans suffering from suicidality and post-traumatic stress disorder. Wayne Stathe University, the University of Michigan and a marijuana research organization called MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) will spend the next three to five years studying hundreds of veterans using cannabis. They will examine variances in the effectiveness of pot use based on factors such as CBD and THC ratios, use prolonged exposure therapy and the inhalation of cannabis flower. The research, a requirement of the 2018 ballot initiative that legalized recreational marijuana in Michigan is rare nationally because cannabis remains illegal at the federal level and is considered a schedule 1 drug on par with heroin, ecstasy and peyote. The same federal laws that make such funding a rarity also make the research funded by state money all the more challenging as the groups struggle to comply with federal research standards involving a controlled substance. “I could go to a dispensary tomorrow two blocks from my office to buy whatever I need, but I’m prohibited by the FDA to give that to anyone in my laboratory,” said Leslie Lundahl, the lead principal investigator for Wayne State University’s research project. “We’ve identified a supplier who can give us exactly what we need and they’ve begun the process of getting approval,” she said. “But it could take a while.” Wayne State University received the most funding of any one group, raking in nearly $19.6 million between the two grant funding periods in 2021 and 2022. WSU researchers are working on a series of three areas to study marijuana’s effect on combatting veteran suicidality and PTSD. The study will work to determine the lowest dose of THC that still retains effectiveness in order to find ways for veterans to maintain concentration, memory or function while using cannabis. A second trial will examine whether cannabis use improves outcomes of prolonged exposure therapy, a common treatment for PTSD that includes discussions of trauma, triggers and reminders to decrease its debilitating effect. 
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Detroit’s queer advocates worry about monkeypox – and messaging

By Bryce Huffman With monkeypox cases on the rise in Michigan, some queer advocates in Detroit worry the heightened risk to gay men could create a stigma for a virus that can harmful to everyone. As of Friday, there were 17 confirmed cases of the virus in Detroit and 72 total across the state. Monkeypox is a viral infection closely related to smallpox and causes the same symptoms – flu-like fevers, headaches, backaches, muscle aches and chills. The virus is transmitted by close, personal contact, including skin-to-skin touches, kissing or other sexually intimate contact, or by touching fabrics or objects touched by someone infected. According to the CDC, over 7,510 cases have been recorded nationwide and most cases involve men who have sex with men or patients that are identifying as LGBTQ. Chris Sutton, broadcast coordinator for LGBT Detroit, worries that messaging around who is most at risk to contract monkeypox is triggering and will increase anti-gay stigma. Patricia Wren, chair of the department at Wayne State University, said the messaging around monkeypox makes people assume it is only sexually transmitted, but it’s mostly spread through long periods of close contact, not necessarily sex. “Right now, there may be more cases in men who have sex with men. These men may also be better informed about sexually transmitted diseases and, thus, more likely to see their physician if worrying symptoms appear,” Wren said. “But if the HIV/AIDS pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that viruses – including monkeypox – are transmitted by specific behaviors and not by sexual orientations or identities.” 
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Wayne State University looking for veterans to study the benefits of cannabis for PTSD

Dr. Leslie Lundahl, associate professor in the department of psychiatry and neurosciences at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, and her team are launching a new study to find out whether CBD and THC can help with PTSD. The study is looking to enlist the help of 350 veterans. The study will test cognitive function and monitor vitals while also testing blood, urine, and saliva samples. When studying regular cannabis users, they’re hoping to find lower levels of THC that can produce effective results. “Public opinion has really outpaced science in terms of cannabinoid therapeutics,” said Lundahl. “There are animal data that suggest it might be helpful, there are anecdotal reports that it might be helpful for pain or for PTSD or mood or anxiety, but we don’t really have any hard scientific data to really support that…Specifically, we’re looking at PTSD symptoms severity and then frequency and severity of suicidal thoughts and behavior.  
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Survivors of Aurora, Colorado, mass shooting still haunted 10 years later

Ten years ago, a gunman opened fire in a crowded movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, killing 12 and wounding 70 people. At the time, it was one of the worst mass shootings in the country’s history, and sparked familiar conversations about gun control and mental health. A decade later that massacre continues to take a daily toll on both individuals and the community. Arash Javanbakht, who directs the Stress, Trauma and Anxiety Research Clinic at Wayne State University, said there are as many ways that people deal with trauma as there are people who experience trauma. “For some people, there’s detachment. For some people, it’s loss of hope. For some people, basically, their perspective of the world has changed, the way they see life, the way they define experiences,” he said. “Some people turn it to the action. Some people channel their emotions into action. We have seen some of the survivors of these events start becoming activists who are trying to find solutions to make this better.”
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Planning begins for new digital resource and seminars to help cancer patients navigate financial barriers, thanks to MHEF grant

The Michigan Health Endowment Fund (MHEF) has awarded research investigators at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute a $100,000 Community Healthy Impact grant to support a new program addressing financial toxicity among cancer patients. Michigan Community Outreach to Address Financial Toxicity (MI-COST) will build upon ongoing community outreach and engagement work underway within Karmanos’ Office of Cancer Health Equity and Community Engagement (OCHECE). The objectives include developing a series of educational seminars on topics designed to help people with cancer and their caregivers navigate related financial barriers and creating a website to provide patients and caregivers with financial information and resources. “One of our roles in OCHECE is to connect our communities to our scientists and our scientists to our communities to ensure that there is community input into our cancer center’s research agenda,” said Dr. Hayley Thompson, co-investigator for the MI-COST program, associate center director for community outreach and engagement at Karmanos, and professor in the department of oncology at Wayne State University’s School of Medicine. 
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Melatonin poisoning reports among kids up 530% from 2012 to 2021

Over the past decade, poison control has been getting more and more reports of kids accidentally ingesting melatonin supplements. In fact, reports of melatonin ingestions among children jumped by 530% from January 1, 2012 to December 21, 2021, according to a new study published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. For the study, a team from the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, the Wayne State University School of Medicine (Varun Vohra, PharmD) and Boston Children’s Hospital analyzed data on children from the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System.