Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris wants to double the number of mental health treatment beds available across the country and increase access to virtual mental health counseling.
Harris on Monday rolled out her mental health platform at a South Carolina event with radio host Charlamagne Tha God, who has spoken about his own mental health struggles. Much of Harris' plan includes elements she's teased on the campaign trail, where she frequently says Americans need to put just as much attention on health from the "neck up" as from the neck down.
"Instead of letting people silently suffer from depression, from drug addiction, from suicidal thoughts, we need to bring this out of the shadow and discuss it and put resources into it, get rid of the stigma," the senator from California told a crowd in Iowa this month.
Harris' plan, released by the campaign, lists South Carolina, Iowa and Nevada, all early voting states, as priority states for increasing mental health treatment beds. It also lists Michigan, a key swing state.
South Carolina is one of the worst states for access to mental health care, according to rankings by the nonprofit organization Mental Health America.
On the trail, Harris, who launched her 2020 campaign in January, has stated the need to put serious resources into mental health treatment. But her plan does not include price tags or details on what it would cost to double the number of treatment beds or cover her other proposals. It does propose a $100 million fund for Native American communities to address mental health.
Spokesman Ian Sams did not respond to questions about the plan's costs.
Beyond doubling treatment beds, Harris proposes doubling research dollars for the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to focus on post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and other drivers of mental illness. She would direct federal agencies focused on mental health to collect better data on people facing mental illness and reclassify certain disorders, such as schizophrenia, to improve access to treatment.
Harris also has proposed a loan forgiveness program for mental health workers who go to areas facing provider shortages. She introduced similar legislation last year as well as a bill to increase telemedicine.
The plan goes hand in hand with Harris' proposed expansion of Medicare. Health care is a major flashpoint in the Democratic primary contest, and Harris has tried to strike a middle ground by proposing a "Medicare for All" system that preserves a role for private insurers.
Willie Murphy was getting ready for bed Thursday at her home in Rochester, New York, when a man pounded on the door and said he needed an ambulance, Murphy told WHAM.
She called police but wouldn't open the door. Then, she said, the man broke in and skulked through the dark house.
"He picked the wrong house to break into," Murphy said.
She clobbered him with a table, poured shampoo in his face and was beating him with a broom when police arrived.
"I was whaling on that man," Murphy told the Democrat and Chronicle. "'Cause I said to myself, 'If it's my time to go to hell, I'm taking him with me!'"
The man got his ambulance ride, after all. He was sent to a hospital, and police tweeted a selfie with Murphy, calling her "tough as nails."
Murphy works out almost daily at Rochester's Maplewood YMCA and said she can deadlift 225 pounds — more than twice her weight. She can do one-handed pullups and one-handed pushups.
She won the World Natural Powerlifting Federation Lifter of the Year award in 2014.
"She really helps dispel the myths of aging," said Michelle LeBoo, a program coordinator at the Maplewood YMCA.
Murphy is "a strong, beautiful woman" who does things "for the benefit of others," LeBoo said.
Murphy said she hopes her story inspires people of all ages.
U.S. health officials on Friday told people to avoid romaine lettuce grown in Salinas, California, because of another food poisoning outbreak.
The notice comes almost exactly one year after a similar outbreak led to a blanket warning about romaine.
Officials urged Americans not to eat the leafy green if the label doesn't say where it was grown. They also urged supermarkets and restaurants not to serve or sell the lettuce, unless they're sure it was grown elsewhere.
The warning applies to all types of romaine from the Salinas region, include whole heads, hearts and pre-cut salad mixes.
"We're concerned this romaine could be in other products," said Laura Gieraltowski, lead investigator of the outbreak at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Officials said their investigation led to farms in Salinas and that they are looking for the source of E. coli tied to the illnesses. Salinas is a major growing region for romaine from around April to this time of year, when growing shifts south to Yuma, Arizona.
After last year's pre-Thanksgiving outbreak tied to romaine, the produce industry agreed to voluntarily label the lettuce with harvest regions. Health officials said that would make it easier to trace romaine and issue more specific public health warnings when outbreaks happen.
Officials never identified exactly how romaine might have become contaminated in past outbreaks. But another outbreak in spring 2018 that sickened more than 200 people and killed five was traced to tainted irrigation water near a cattle lot. (E. coli is found in the feces of animals such as cows.)
It's not clear exactly why romaine keeps popping up in outbreaks, but food safety experts note the popularity of romaine lettuce and the difficulty of eliminating risk for produce grown in open fields and eaten raw.
Industry groups noted that they tightened safety measures following last year's outbreaks, including expanding buffer zones between growing fields and livestock.
"It's very, very disturbing. Very frustrating all around," said Trevor Suslow of the Produce Marketing Association.
The CDC says 40 people have been reported sick so far in 16 states. The most recent reported illness started on Nov. 10. The agency says it's the same E. coli strain tied to previous outbreaks, including the one from last Thanksgiving.
The CDC's Gieraltowski said that suggests there's a persisting contamination source in the environment.
They still bite, but new research shows lab-grown mosquitoes are fighting dangerous dengue fever that they normally would spread.
Dengue infections appear to be dropping fast in communities in Indonesia, Vietnam, Brazil and Australia that are buzzing with the specially bred mosquitoes, an international research team reported Thursday.
It's the first evidence from large-scale field trials that mosquitoes are less likely to spread dengue and similar viruses when they also carry a type of bacteria that's common in insects and harmless to people.
Rather than using pesticides to wipe out bugs, "this is really about transforming the mosquito," said Cameron Simmons of the nonprofit World Mosquito Program that is conducting the research.
The first hint of success came from Australia. Mosquitoes bred to carry Wolbachia bacteria were released in parts of North Queensland starting in 2011, and gradually spread through the local mosquito population. Dengue is transmitted when a mosquito bites someone who is infected, and then bites another person, but somehow Wolbachia blocks that — and local transmission has nearly disappeared in those North Queensland communities, Simmons said in an interview.
The real test would come in dengue-plagued areas in Asia and Latin America that regularly experience outbreaks where millions get the painful and sometimes deadly disease.
Thursday, Simmons' team reported a 76% decline in dengue recorded by local authorities in an Indonesian community near the city of Yogyakarta since the 2016 release of Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes. That's compared to dengue transmission in a nearby area where regular mosquitoes do the biting.
Researchers found a similar drop in a community near the southern Vietnamese city of Nha Trang. And preliminary results suggest large declines in dengue and a related virus, chikungunya, in a few neighborhoods in Brazil near Rio de Janeiro.
The studies are continuing in those countries and others. But the findings, presented at a meeting of the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, suggest it's possible to turn at least some mosquitoes from a public health threat into nuisance biters.
The work marks "exciting progress," said Michigan State University professor Zhiyong Xi, who wasn't involved with the project but has long studied how Wolbachia can turn mosquitoes against themselves.
Reducing disease "is the ultimate success of our field," added University of Maryland biologist Brian Lovett, who also wasn't part of the project.
More research is needed, specialists cautioned. These studies used local health groups' counts of dengue cases rather than blood tests, noted Penn State University professor Elizabeth McGraw. And while Wolbachia has persisted in North Queensland mosquitoes for eight years and counting, whether mosquitoes maintain dengue resistance that long in harder-hit regions remains to be seen.
"The results are pretty exciting — strong levels of reductions — but there clearly are going to be things to be learned from the areas where the reductions are not as great," McGraw said.
More than half of insect species, from fruit flies to butterflies, naturally are infected with Wolbachia — but not the main dengue-spreader, Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. They're daytime biters that thrive in hot urban and suburban localities where, for now, widespread pesticide spraying is the main protection.
Researchers with the World Mosquito Program first injected mosquito eggs with Wolbachia in a lab. Infected females then pass the bacteria on through their eggs. Releasing enough Wolbachia carriers, both the females that bite and the males that don't, allows mating to spread the bacteria through a local mosquito population.
The approach doesn't reduce bites. Simmons said the up-front cost is cheaper than years of spraying and medical care.
It's just one of multiple novel mosquito-control methods under study:
—Michigan State's Xi uses Wolbachia in a different way — to eliminate mosquitoes. Release only male Wolbachia carriers and when they mate with uninfected females, the eggs don't hatch.
—Other researchers zap male mosquitoes with a small dose of radiation, sterilizing them before releasing them into the wild.
—Genetically modifying mosquitoes is another approach. Furthest in development is Britain's Oxitec, which gives male mosquitoes a gene to weaken their offspring so they don't survive to adulthood.
Each approach has pros and cons, but "our best hope to control the mosquitoes that make us sick is to box them in with multiple technologies," said Maryland's Lovett.
Chinese health authorities at all levels have been required to enhance their flu prevention measures and health education for the upcoming flu season.
A circular issued by China's National Health Commission called for more standardized diagnosis and treatment of influenza, with more focus on children, the elderly and the pregnant.
The circular proposed enhancing the monitoring of influenza cases and training of medical personnel.
It also called on medical and health institutions at primary levels to carry out early identification, diagnosis and treatment of influenza cases and to better implement the tiered diagnosis and treatment model.
Official websites, Weibo and WeChat, as well as major media outlets including television and newspapers, should all serve as channels for the orderly dissemination of important information on influenza prevention and treatment, it said.