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January 11th, 2013
05:45 AM ET

Flu outbreak spreads geographically, but number of people with symptoms down; CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen reports

The fast-spreading flu is now officially an epidemic. This year's flu season has come early—and hit hard. Nearly two dozen children have died. CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is live in Fort Worth, Texas with a mixed bag of details and some good news.

“The flu activity in this country has gone down a bit,” Cohen says. “Two weeks ago we were talking about 29 states having high levels of flu activity. Now we're talking about 24 states having high level of flu activity. That is good news.”

Meanwhile, the outbreak has reached a wider scale. “We’re seeing less flu in the United States, but it is spread out more. Geographically it has spread out to more locations,” Cohen explains. “So, to put that in terms of numbers, two weeks ago, 41 states were seeing widespread activity, meaning it was throughout various regions of their state. Now 47 states say they're seeing flu in various regions of their state. So spread out more, but the actual number of people who are having flu symptoms has actually gone down.”

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Filed under: Epidemic • Flu • Medical
December 19th, 2012
08:33 AM ET

Child survivors of 1999 mass shooting grow up; CNN's Elizabeth Cohen reports: 'shooting still haunts them sometimes'

Newtown, Connecticut is a town in mourning since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. While the entire nation grieves and feels for the victims and their families, the young children who survived the shooting have now taken a major hit to their innocence that may scar them forever. CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen speaks to two men who survived an earlier mass shooting as young boys to learn how they coped with their trauma.

Child witnesses to the Sandy Hook massacre say they heard shots go off, or bullets go past the hall. Their “innocent eyes have witnessed unspeakable horrors” and “images that could haunt them forever,” Cohen says.

Ben Kadish and Josh Stepakoff are among the few people who've experienced what the Sandy Hook children have experienced and worry about them. "Thirteen years ago, the boys were at summer camp at a Jewish community center when a gunman stormed in and shot them,” she says. Now 19, “Josh and Ben say the shooting still haunts them sometimes, but with great parents and therapy, they've worked through the trauma.”


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Filed under: Medical • Sandy Hook • Shooting
December 18th, 2012
07:03 AM ET

CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta looks inside the violent mind; researchers say none of 10 killers studied had just "snapped"

Newtown, Connecticut is a town in mourning in the aftermath of the tragic shooting that took the lives of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Many questions are being asked in the wake of the devastation, especially why the shooter did what he did. A body of research on previous mass murders may provide clues as to what the killers share in their minds. CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is exploring that story.

“A close look at ten of the most analyzed mass murder cases in history provides some remarkable insight,” Dr. Gupta says. "According to this research published in the journal, Aggression and Violent Behavior, doctors typically start by placing killers into three categories: traumatized, psychotic,  psychopathic."

In each case studied, "the killers showed signs of psychotic behavior, severe delusions and paranoia," Dr. Gupta says. "Looking back, none of them had snapped. They had all left clues, pieced together after it was too light. Hindsight.”

December 14th, 2012
09:27 AM ET

Minnesota teen uses music to cope with cancer; CNN's Ed Lavandera reports: leaving 'unforgettable melodies is Zach Sobiech’s final wish'

“Early Start” brings you a story of a brave 17-year-old Minnesota teen. Diagnosed with terminal cancer, Zach Sobiech doesn’t expect to live to see his 18th birthday but he is determined to leave behind a musical legacy. CNN’s Ed Lavandera has his story.

“Zach Sobiech’s soul is filled with lyrics racing against time to get out,” Lavandera says. Zach was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer three years ago. After ten surgeries and endless chemotherapy, his doctor has told him he has just months to live. His mother has since suggested he write letters goodbye to family and friends.

“I am awful at writing,” Zach says. “I can’t sit down and write a letter. I’ve tried. I decided to pick up my guitar to start playing music.”

“That’s how his song called ‘Clouds’ was born,” Lavandera says, “a goodbye to those he loves.”

“It’s kind of me always being there for them,” Zach says. “If they keep singing that song throughout their whole life out, I’ll be right there next to them the whole way.”

He can’t stop writing lyrics now, “there are so many songs he wants to leave behind,” Lavandera says. “I can’t really put on the breaks at all,” Zach says, “I can’t wait for anything.”

“Turning the heartache of cancer into unforgettable melodies is Zach Sobiech’s final wish on this long goodbye.”

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Filed under: Cancer • Medical • Music • YouTube
December 14th, 2012
07:14 AM ET

Children who lost their parents to prescription drug abuse; Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports: 'an epidemic...tearing apart family after family'

Prescription drug abuse is a rampant problem in Kentucky, where over 86 thousand kids are growing up without their parents—many because of this issue. In fact, Kentucky is the fourth most medicated state in the nation and has the sixth highest rate of overdose deaths. Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports on that reality from one community that is all too familiar with this "epidemic that is tearing apart family after family."

Hannah Eaton is a high school student in Rockcastle County, Kentucky. She lost both her uncle and cousin to years of prescription drug abuse. “You're constantly hearing of someone else who is dying because of abusing prescription drugs,” Eaton says.

Karen Kelly is the Executive Director of Operation Unite, a community coalition devoted to preventing overdose deaths in Kentucky like those of Eaton's relatives. She says half of the kids in Rockcastle County have no parent in the home whatsoever. “So now we're seeing many raised by great grandparents because we've lost an entire generation of young people,” Kelly says. “And, you know, the kids really are the ones paying the biggest price."

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Filed under: Drugs • Medical
November 16th, 2012
08:59 AM ET

Sr. Med.Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen surveys the damage from Sandy to NYU Langone Medical Center, 'ruined by more than 10 million gallons of flood water'

NYU Langone Medical Center caught media attention during Superstorm Sandy when the hospital was forced to evacuate hundreds of patients, including infant babies, while the storm raged on. The center suffered extensive flood damage, and now a massive cleanup operation is underway. CNN was the first network to be allowed to have cameras inside to see the damage. Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen surveyed the damage.

The hospital was “ruined by more than 10 million gallons of flood water,” Cohen reports.  It's been pumped out, but Cohen and her guide Richard Cohen, the Vice President of Facilities Operations, wear a mask because of the smell left behind. In the cellar, the water destroyed several million dollars worth of equipment in an MRI suite.  On the first floor, the water was so high people could have almost been under water. A lecture hall “became a swimming pool.”

“NYU Langone has brought in hundreds of clean up workers,” Cohen reports, “some with specialized skills from around the country.” “Clean up is 24/7, expected to cost around $700 million.”

NYU Langone's Chairman of the Board, Ken Langone, was a patient at the hospital the night of the storm. He was recovering from pneumonia and walked out the building during the evacuation. “They woke me up and said we're evacuating,” Langone says. “And I said ‘fine.’ So I got up and brushed my teeth, put my clothes on and I said ‘let's go.’”

Now many rooms throughout the medical center are idle. Langone says he hopes they will be up and running again in about four weeks.

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Filed under: 2012 • Hurricane Sandy • Medical
October 15th, 2012
10:00 AM ET

CNN Senior Medical Correspondent visits family of loved one killed by fungal meningitis

The death toll from fungal meningitis caused by contaminated injections from the New England Compounding Center has reached 15. Those currently sick now number 205. But there are real people behind those numbers of suffering or deceased after merely visiting the doctor to treat back or neck pain. CNN Senior Medical Correspondent spent time with the family of Eddie Lovelace.  A circuit court judge in Kentucky, Lovelace was one of the first to die from the meningitis outbreak. His family shares his story.

October 9th, 2012
07:29 AM ET

Fungal meningitis outbreak spreads to 9 states, infecting 105 and killing 8 – Elizabeth Cohen explains

A shocking development this morning in the outbreak of fungal meningitis currently gripping several states in the country.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are now saying that as many as 13,000 people may have received contaminated steroid injections causing the disease and the numbers may continue to rise. CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen has the latest on “Early Start” this morning.

Cohen is stunned that a contaminated medication could reach such a great number of people. “What failed in our system that it got contaminated in the first place and then was sent out?” she asks.

She breaks down the new numbers. “There are now, according to the CDC, 105 cases of fungal meningitis related to this outbreak and eight deaths” she reports. “It can take weeks, or even months, for someone to get sick after getting one of these contaminated injections,” she says. “That’s why the numbers are going to go up.”

Cohen encourages patients to get checked for possible fungal meningitis if they received the injection. “We have a list of all the hospitals and the doctors that received these potentially tainted injections at CNN.com/EmpoweredPatient.”

Cohen also stresses that the disease is not contagious and those receiving the injection now should be fine.

Filed under: Medical • Meningitis
October 5th, 2012
09:47 AM ET

CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen on meningitis fears in 23 states

Fears of the meningitis outbreak that killed at least five people continues to spread with 35 people now infected in six states. CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen has the details.

The FDA is telling doctors not to use any products from the New England Compounding Center, Cohen reports. “This is a company that puts different drugs together,” she says. “One of these drugs is associated with the illnesses and deaths” from fungal meningitis contracted from a steroid injected into their backs to treat back pain. Cohen mentions that the FDA’s inspection of the facility uncovered “fungus in a vial that you could see with the naked eye,” she says. “That’s why they’re saying don’t use anything from this place.”

Cohen says “more infections are possible” as the medication in question was sent to 75 facilities in 23 states. Cohen mentions, however, that many worry that meningitis is contagious. “That is not the case here. You only need to worry if you got a steroid injection with this drug.”

October 1st, 2012
10:25 AM ET

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen explains new developments in cancer research

Like a scene right out of science fiction, researchers at Johns Hopkins have developed a procedure to help a cancer patient grow an ear on her arm. A surgery led to the loss of several structures of her inner ear as well as her hearing. Elizabeth Cohen describes this new advancement to John.

Filed under: Medical • Science • Technology
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