Over 2 dozen people rushed to hospital after taking synthetic weed

More than two dozen people at the same street corner had to be rushed to the hospital after suffering a bad reaction to synthetic marijuana in Brooklyn on Saturday night.

Police sources told New York ABC station WABC that officers reported to a street corner in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn after receiving multiple calls for bad reactions to the drug. The sources said at least 25 people were taken to the hospital to be treated for adverse symptoms.

Officials told WABC none of the patients are in life-threatening condition.

The drug, often labeled synthetic marijuana, doesn’t include any actual cannabis.

Synthetic weed, also called K2 or spice, is dried plant material sprayed with chemicals, which can be smoked or sold in liquid-form to be inhaled with a vaporizer. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, effects can be “unpredictable and, in some cases, more dangerous or even life-threatening.”

The overdoses on Saturday occurred at the intersection of Broadway and Myrtle Avenue under the J, Z subway tracks. The location is well-known by authorities.

In July 2016, at least 33 people had serious adverse reactions to synthetic weed in one day at the exact same corner, and over 100 were taken to the emergency room from July 11 to July 13, 2016, according to the National Institute of Health.

The NIH released warnings in four states — Wisconsin, Indiana, Maryland and Illinois — over dangerous synthetic marijuana in early April. Illinois especially was hit with a number of problems due to the drug. Three people died and over 100 people were hospitalized in Illinois in April, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Follow this story

Do school buses need seat belts?

Impassioned debates about safety tend to follow every deadly wreck involving a school bus — such as Thursday’s tragedy in Morris County, New Jersey.

A bus collided with a dump truck and flipped, resulting in two deaths and 43 people injured, according to Gov. Phil Murphy. One of the deceased is a child, while the other is an adult, he said. Some of the injured were in critical condition and undergoing surgery.

Unnerved parents across the nation are undoubtedly wondering: Should our children be wearing seat belts as they ride to and from school?

In fact, federal law requires smaller school buses — those weighing 10,000 pounds or less — to have lap-shoulder belts, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. School buses above that weight are not mandated to provide seat belts for passengers.

States or local jurisdictions, however, are free to pass stricter regulations.

Seven states — Arkansas, California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York and Texas — have passed some variation of a seat belt law for larger school buses (even if funding had not been appropriated in all cases), notes the National Conference of State Legislatures.

There are strong voices on both sides of the school bus seat belt issue.

Protected by ‘compartmentalization’

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is part of the Department of Transportation, is responsible for keeping people safe on America’s roadways. It enforces vehicle performance standards and partnerships with state and local governments.

The agency’s regulatory documents and its website consistently maintain the position that seat belts in larger school buses are not necessary.

“There is no question that seat belts play an important role in keeping passengers safe,” the website notes. “But school buses are different by design, including a different kind of safety restraint system that works extremely well.”

As explained by the agency, large school buses are heavier than passenger cars and distribute crash forces differently, resulting in bus passengers experiencing much less crash force than those riding in passenger cars, light trucks or vans.

Since small school buses are closer to cars in both size and weight, seat belts are necessary to provide protection in those vehicles, it says. School buses weighing 10,000 pounds or less — the smaller ones — must be equipped with lap and/or lap/shoulder belts at all designated seating positions.

However, large school buses are a different matter, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In these large vehicles, an engineering concept called compartmentalization — which translates, in practice, to strong, closely spaced seats and energy-absorbing seat backs — protects children from crashes.

The nation’s school bus fleet is 2 1/2 times the size of all other forms of mass transportation combined, while each school day, more than 25 million American children ride in these buses to and from school, according to the National Association for Pupil Transportation, a trade association in the student transportation industry.

As to whether seat belts would increase safety in larger school buses, the trade association states that “a great deal of ambiguity remains.”

A clear opposing viewpoint to the official position of the federal government, though, is espoused by the American Academy of Pediatrics. It offers a long trail of published studies and editorials about school bus safety, including the use of seat belts, reaching all the way to the mid-1980s.

“Simply put, in a perfect world, all school buses would have seat belts in all seating positions. Sadly, it’s a more complex world than that,” said Dr. Ben Hoffman, chairman of the academy’s Council on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention and a practicing pediatrician at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, describing the policy.

Hoffman said the academy’s position has always been “that seat belts on school buses would be a good thing for kids.”

‘Astronomically high’ costs

The principle of compartmentalization protects children “to a large degree,” Hoffman said. “We do know that school buses, in the grand scheme of things, tend to be very safe vehicles, They travel at relatively lower speeds most of the time, they travel predictable routes, they’re very visible, and they’re also very big so that in the event of a collision, they’re gonna tend to win.”

So, for the majority of minor crashes, “compartmentalization works,” he said, though this doesn’t mean a child provided with a seat belt or seat harness wouldn’t have a lower risk of injury.

School bus rollovers and high-speed crashes are “where we probably would see the greatest benefit” in adding belts to buses, Hoffman said. “Fortunately, those tend to be very rare.”

Ultimately, the biggest barrier to retrofitting school buses with seat belts is the cost, which would be “astronomically high,” he said. And since school buses have a lifespan of somewhere between 10 and 20 years, even if municipalities passed policies to require seat belts, they would probably be for newly purchased buses. In that scenario, it would take a long time for an entire fleet to become fully equipped.

Most recently, in May, the American Academy of Pediatrics released guidelines for students with special health care needs, including the approximately 300,000 who travel seated in wheelchairs on school buses each day. This new policy, Hoffman said, “is really about establishing guidelines to ensure that every child can be transported safely to school, regardless of their ability or disability.”

“National PTA advocates that all new school buses be equipped with three-point seat belts,” said Heidi May Wilson, a spokeswoman for the organization. Additionally, the PTA endorsed a bill introduced in the House of Representatives last year that requires the Department of Transportation to establish a program to provide school buses with seat belts and other safety features.

Generally, school buses are much safer than traveling in a private car, Hoffman said. “The majority of injuries that occur with school buses actually occur getting on and off the bus or happen around a bus rather than in a moving bus.”

Follow this story

Teen develops ‘wet lung’ after vaping for just 3 weeks

An 18-year old woman working as a hostess in a rural Pennsylvania restaurant decided to try e-cigarettes, perhaps another of the innumerable bistro workers hoping to calm frayed nerves with a smoke — or in this case, a vape.

This hostess, though, paid an unusual price for her e-cig use, according to a case study published Thursday in the medical journal Pediatrics. As usual for a patient report, the authors did not disclose the young woman’s name to protect her privacy.

E-cigarettes heat liquid and turn it into vapor, which a user inhales and then exhales in a large puffy cloud. The liquid is known as e-juice, and it contains flavorings, propylene glycol, glycerin and often nicotine — though many users are unaware of this final addictive ingredient.

The hostess had been vaping for only about three weeks last year when she developed symptoms bad enough to send her to the emergency room of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

There, doctors recorded her issues: cough, difficulty breathing that was worsening by the minute, and sudden stabbing pains in the chest with every inhalation and exhalation. Not yet feverish, she showed no upper respiratory symptoms such as a runny nose or nasal congestion. In the past, she said, the only lung problems she had were from mild asthma, which rarely required the use of an inhaler.

When her coughing became more frequent, the ER doctors admitted her to the pediatric intensive-care unit and started her on antibiotics. But her condition rapidly worsened.

Soon, the young woman experienced what is commonly known as respiratory failure, said Dr. Daniel Weiner, one of the patient’s doctors, a co-author of the new report and a medical director at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh at UPMC.

“She was unable to get enough oxygen into her blood from her lungs and required a mechanical ventilator (respirator) to breathe for her until her lungs recovered,” Weiner said.

Not only did the hostess require a breathing machine, she needed tubes inserted on both sides of her chest to drain fluid from her lungs.

Her doctors diagnosed hypersensitivity pneumonitis, sometimes called wet lung, an inflammation of the lungs due to an allergic reaction to chemicals or dust.

Dr. Casey Sommerfeld, the patient’s pediatrician and lead author of the study, said chemicals in the e-cigarettes led to lung damage and inflammation, which triggered the woman’s body to mount an immune response.

“This immune response can lead to increased inflammation and ‘leaky’ blood vessels, which can lead to fluid accumulation in the lungs,” said Sommerfeld, now a general pediatrician at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

‘More case reports and side effects’

The woman was treated with an IV of methylprednisolone, a drug used to treat severe allergic reactions.

She improved swiftly and was weaned off the mechanical support system five days after being admitted to the hospital.

“It is difficult to speculate on how frequently this could happen; however, there are a few case reports involving adults that developed respiratory distress following electronic cigarette use,” Sommerfeld said. “As electronic cigarette use increases, we will be seeing more case reports and side effects.”

Ilona Jaspers, a professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Microbiology and Immunology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said the case study suggests that e-cigarettes will cause negative health consequences that had not been seen with conventional cigarettes.

Jaspers, who was not involved in the study, added that even though it describes just one patient, it “highlights the importance of potential adverse health effects associated with e-cigarette use.”

Additionally, the diagnosis of symptoms related to a number of serious lung conditions suggests that the negative health effects of e-cigarettes may “manifest in several different ways,” she said.

Her research has shown that certain e-cigarette flavor chemicals significantly reduce the function of immune cells.

‘Risky behavior’

Sommerfeld noted that, as vaping products contain nicotine, “vaping can cause side effects including dizziness, headaches, nausea, racing heart, anxiety and difficulty with sleep. Nicotine is known to be addictive, and children can become hooked on electronic cigarettes.”

Jaspers said that, “in addition to nicotine addiction, which by itself will have effects on the adolescent brain, we just do not know yet what the long term health effects of exposure to e-cigarettes may be. We also do not know whether potential health effects caused by using e-cigarettes are more pronounced” in teens.

The rapid spread of vaping was highlighted by a 2016 report from the US surgeon general that cited a 900% increase in e-cigarette use by high school students from 2011 to 2015. Meanwhile, the 2016 National Youth Tobacco Survey noted that 1.7 million high school students said they had used e-cigarettes in the previous 30 days.

“I hope we can find a way to quickly reverse this trend,” Jaspers said.

Sommerfeld agreed. Using e-cigarettes “normalizes” smoking, she said, and is linked to an “increased likelihood of using typical cigarettes or tobacco products.” For this reason, vaping and electronic cigarette use should be included in discussions of “risky behavior” with teens, she said.

“As a pediatrician, I am always a child advocate and seeking to speak out on the best interest of children.”

Follow this story

US Surgeon General says he assisted in medical emergency on Delta flight

The United States Surgeon General said on Wednesday that he assisted in a medical emergency on board a Delta flight.

“On my @Delta flight to Jackson, Mississippi (by way of Atlanta), and they asked if there was a Doctor on board to help with a medical emergency- why yes- yes there was. Patient doing well and like a good #USPHS officer, I was glad to be able to assist!,” US Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams tweeted on Wednesday.

It was not immediately clear what situation Adams was referring to and what happened on the flight.

Requests for comment to the US Surgeon General’s office and Delta were not immediately returned.

Adams, who has served as surgeon general since September of last year, is an anesthesiologist, according to his official biography.

Delta’s official Twitter account responded to the tweet, saying, “We certainly thank you for volunteering as well as for your service. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.”

Mississippi governor Phil Bryant also offered up praise, tweeting, “Nice job, Dr. Adams!” on Wednesday.

Follow this story