Health

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Winter weather has affected blood donations, and Port Jefferson’s John T. Mather Memorial Hospital, located at 75 N. Country Road, will hold a blood drive on Monday, March 7, to help.

According to the hospital, snow caused many blood drives to be canceled; so the community needs donors to help keep cancer and surgery patients, accident and burn victims, anemic patients, newborns and their mothers and AIDS patients alive.

The Mather event — which will run from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. in Conference Rooms 3, 4 and 5 — is open to everyone and no appointment is necessary.

Free valet parking is available at the main entrance.

Donors will receive candy, McDonald’s certificates and a gift card to Panera or Target.

State Sen. John Flanagan. File photo

Lawmakers are stepping up in the fight against synthetic drugs, and one North Shore official said it was a major milestone in a personal initiative to combat abuse.

State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) joined with Senate Majority Coalition leaders and the Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) to help pass a package of bills that aims to prevent the abuse of deadly synthetic drugs. In a statement, Flanagan said the drugs have become more prevalent across Long Island because their effects are similar to other known hallucinogens or narcotics. But their chemical structures, Flanagan said, are slightly altered, making it more difficult to restrict them.

“The spread of synthetic drugs is affecting every community and will continue to destroy lives unless more preventive action is taken,” Flanagan said. “For five years, I have sponsored legislation that has passed the Senate on numerous occasions so that we can hold criminals accountable for the creation of new and dangerous drugs that evade our current laws. It is past time for the Assembly to join us and help put an end to synthetic drugs today.”

If the Senate bill passes, the state would zero in on the sale of the synthetic drugs known as K2, Alpha-PVP and others similar to them, by creating criminal penalties for possession and sale. The Department of Health would have to maintain an electronic database of known synthetic cannabinoids, listing their compounds, a description of products and their street names, lawmakers said. The legislation would also amend the Controlled Substances Act to add analogous drugs, Flanagan said.

With support from the Senate Majority Coalition and Klein, who heads the Independent Democratic Conference, lawmakers released a report called “The State of Synthetics: A Review of the Synthetic Cannabinoid Drug Problem in New York and Solutions on Ending the Epidemic” earlier this year. The report found that New York taxpayers fronted roughly $22.7 million to respond to what Flanagan called a public health crisis in 2015.

“We must KO K2 from upstate to downstate, and the Senate will send a strong message that synthetic drugs will not be tolerated in our state,” Klein said. “My analog bill will ensure that New York keeps ahead of the chemists’ curve and will ban chemicals that mimic controlled substances as they are tweaked, so the law can no longer be subverted. Now, the Assembly must take action to protect the citizens of New York State.”

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By Susan Risoli

People coping with illnesses such as osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis — or those who have undergone a mastectomy — may also contend with pain, disability and a swirl of emotions.

hand_health_wThe best treatment plan is a multifaceted approach, said Marco Palmieri, D.O. Palmieri is medical director of the Center for Pain Management at Stony Brook Medicine. “A pretty high percentage” of post-mastectomy patients experience pain, he said. He and his colleagues recommend a well-structured regimen that could include medications, interventional approaches, physical therapy, acupuncture, massage therapy, diet, exercise and, in some cases, treatment by a pain psychologist, Palmieri said.

Interventional approaches may include ablation and nerve blocks. “We block the nerves that supply the area of the chest wall,” Palmieri explained. For postmastectomy patients, he said, pain management specialists would choose neuropathic pain medications first, before turning to opioid drugs, in what Palmieri called “an opioid-sparing strategy.”

A pain psychologist may be called in for postmastectomy patients “who experience mood effects or have trouble coping,” Palmieri said.

Most important is to remember that postmastectomy patients need more than a cookie-cutter pain management plan, Palmieri said. “Not every patient is going to fit into the same treatment paradigm. Some things may be more appropriate for some patients than others.”

An individualized treatment plan can also aid people with rheumatoid arthritis, a disease that is “more of an inflammatory syndrome from other body structures than from a nerve,” Palmieri said. RA treatments at SBU’s Center for Pain Management could include joint injections guided by imaging (x-ray or ultrasound), nerve blocks and ablations, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, “and, sometimes, anti-depressant medications,” he said. Low-impact exercise, acupuncture, physical therapy and speaking with a pain psychologist can also help, he said.

He urges patients with acute or chronic pain from arthritis or mastectomy to understand that “there are options for them. If you come to pain management, it does not mean you’re going to be placed on narcotics.”

For information on the Center for Pain Management, visit www.stonybrookmedicine.edu or call 631-689-8333.

Those who have become all-too-familiar with the effects of osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis, and people who have undergone mastectomy can find relief and renewed health through the regular practice of yoga, said Danielle Goldstein. Yoga helps mastectomy patients “rebuild their upper body strength and work through the scar tissue that forms as a result of the mastectomy,” said Goldstein, owner/director of Mindful Turtle Yoga and Wellness in East Setauket. After a mastectomy, the breath work that is part of doing yoga helps people “worry less, because they’re able to be in the present moment. They develop the ability to not think about the past or the future — even if it’s just for that hour-long yoga practice,” Goldstein said.

 “The practice of yoga is the effort towards steadiness of mind,” she explained. And the physical side of it “will help people feel better, so they can enjoy their life more.” To get started, consult your physician and an experienced yoga instructor who has worked with mastectomy patients, she advised.

Keep moving — that’s Goldstein’s advice for people with osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Yoga will develop strength, she said, “and in combination with diet, the physical practice could help get body fluids moving so they’re not so stuck.” For osteoporosis, yoga postures (asanas) that are weight-bearing — planks, arm balances, bent-knee poses — will maintain bone density, Goldstein pointed out, “and these asanas can be modified for any age level.” Yoga is also great as a combination approach with acupuncture, nutrition, and Western medical treatment, she added.

People being treated or recovering from illnesses can still turn to yoga, Goldstein said. “It is believed that if you can breathe, you can practice yoga,” she said. “Yoga’s for everybody.” She recommended new students get started by calling the studio, speaking to her, and being guided to the best instructor for their needs.

“A yoga practice is sustainable over the course of a lifetime,” Goldstein said. “The practice may change, it may look different, but it’s still there.” And above all, she said, “It should make you joyful and happy.”

Goldstein can be reached at the Mindful Turtle Yoga and Wellness, 631-721-1881.

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Huntington Hospital is taking preventative steps to ensure its patients know how to combat the Zika virus.

The World Health Organization declared the Zika virus a “public health emergency of international concern” this week, just days after three Long Island patients tested positive for the virus. The Centers for Disease Control issued a travel alert for anyone going to regions including South America and Latin America, and Huntington Hospital officials said they were making sure to educate their patients about the symptoms and steps to take if diagnosed with the viral infection that is being spread through mosquitoes.

Denise Naval, director of infection, prevention and control at Huntington Hospital, said that while there is currently no treatment for the virus, there are several precautions a person can take to fight off the mosquito-related Zika.

Naval said the virus is closely related to Yellow Fever, the West Nile Virus and the Dengue virus, which are all also spread through mosquito bites. She said the Zika virus is spread from the Aedes mosquito, specifically.

There are two types of Aedes species, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, but only the former currently carries Zika with it and it is not native to Long Island, she said. It’s most common in tropical areas of the world. The latter does not currently carry the virus and is found in certain parts of the United States, including Long Island, she said.

Naval also said Zika can not only be transmitted from a mosquito to a human, but also vice versa — from a human to a mosquito.

“Only 20 percent of people will get symptoms,” Naval said in a phone interview. “Eighty percent of people infected won’t even know they are.”

According to the CDC, symptoms from the Zika virus include a fever, rash, joint pain, headaches and more.

Once infected, the CDC says patients must get rest, drink fluids to prevent dehydration, and take medicine such as acetaminophen to relieve fever and pain.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced that the New York State Department of Health, in conjunction with the CDC, would offer free blood test screenings for individuals who have traveled to areas where the Zika virus is going on.

“We’re working closely with the CDC and local health departments to address potential cases of Zika Virus, and by offering free testing we are helping to stay ahead of this disease and protect the public health,” Cuomo said in a press release.

Naval said if anyone must travel to the tropic regions, where Zika is a problem, there are some key precautions they can take.

“Make sure to use bug spray with DEET; stay indoors with air conditioning if you can because insects prefer heat; and wear long sleeves and long pants,” she said.

Aside from a warning for all travelers to avoid these tropic areas, there is also an extra precaution for pregnant women, as there is an added risk for a child whose mother has the Zika virus while pregnant.

The baby can be born with microcephaly, a neurodevelopmental disorder where a baby is born with a smaller head than usual, or other neurological and autoimmune complications, officials said.

According to the WHO, in countries like Brazil there has been an increasing body of evidence about the link between Zika virus and microcephaly. This specific brain disorder is linked to seizures, developmental delays in speech and walking, intellectual disabilities, feeding and vision problems, and more, according to the CDC.

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By Javed Butler, MD

February means heart health awareness, but taking care of your heart requires a year-round commitment that has lifelong benefits. What will you do differently to take better care of your heart?

Heart disease can affect anyone, regardless of gender, age or background. That’s why all of our cardiac care experts at Stony Brook University Heart Institute remain focused on how to best prevent heart disease and heal the heart.

We fight cardiovascular disease from every angle, using the best that cardiovascular medicine can offer: risk factor prevention; state-of-the-art diagnostics, such as 3D cardiovascular imaging; advanced minimally invasive procedures with robotic assistance; and transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) for inoperable aortic stenosis. In the hands of our cardiac experts, these and other cardiac advancements are used to address each patient’s unique situation.

Our ventricular assist device (VAD) program is the most experienced program on Long Island and the first to achieve national accreditation. It offers patients who are ineligible for a heart transplant a way to temporarily or permanently support heart function and heart flow. Patients who are eligible for a heart transplant but are too sick to wait for a suitable donor can also be helped by a VAD device.

The Heart Institute also features both a Valve Center and an Aortic Center where patients are evaluated by multiple cardiac specialists who create individualized treatment plans. Our Chest Pain Center is one of the few accredited centers in New York State. Our Endovascular Rapid Response Team is available 24/7 to treat aortic dissections/ruptures. Stony Brook is consistently recognized by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines® Heart Failure Gold Quality Performance Achievement Award.

Do something good for your heart by getting involved in your own heart health. On Feb. 24, join us at Smith Haven Mall food court for blood pressure screenings at 8 a.m. and a heart health lecture at 9 a.m.

Our popular spring event, Keeping Your Heart Healthy at Any Age dinner and panel discussion will be held on Wednesday, May 11, at 5:30 p.m. at Stony Brook University. Register now at www.stonybookmedicine.edu/hearthealthy.

Have a question about heart disease prevention? Seeking a solution to a cardiac problem? Call us at 631-44-HEART (444-3278). We’re ready to help.

Dr. Javed Butler is co-director of the Heart Institute and chief of the Division of Cardiology at Stony Brook Medicine.

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The Port Jefferson Volunteer Ambulance Company serves Port Jefferson, Belle Terre and Mount Sinai. File photo

Village officials have blocked the local ambulance company from billing residents for service, three months after an explosive debate on the practice.

A few residents argued during a Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees meeting in November that it was unfair, after paying ambulance district taxes, they received bills for ambulance rides when their insurance companies either denied a claim or left them with a hefty deductible to pay. But the board insisted such bills were not the intention of the plan enacted several years ago to help their emergency medical organization recoup expenses.

Faced with rising costs in the ambulance district — which includes Port Jefferson, Belle Terre and Mount Sinai — the board authorized the Port Jefferson Volunteer Ambulance Company to bill patients’ insurance companies for service within their jurisdiction, using the collected funds to offset ambulance taxes.

The bills being sent later on to patients, according to PJVAC Deputy Chief Rob Stoessel, originated because his group and its third-party billing company are obligated to ask for the balance if the insurance does not cover the entire cost. In November he described the requirement as a “good faith attempt.”

Before insurance, the fee on a call for emergency medical care is $900, with an additional $18 for each mile the ambulance transports a patient. Stoessel said that amount takes into consideration both medical and nonmedical expenses like gasoline.

Both he and Mayor Margot Garant agreed that when the billing program was created, the idea was for patients to receive three notices for bills, with no consequences for not paying — as the ambulance company does not have a mechanism for collections.

“The insurance companies, God bless them — collect every nickel from them,” Garant said in November. But “we didn’t want the resident to be pursued for any of the fees.”

Residents who received the bills complained that wasn’t common knowledge, and they were concerned about their credit ratings.

Monica Williams was denied Medicare coverage for her treatment.

“I don’t really think that any village resident … should be looking at a bill like that,” Williams said in November. “It’s surprising. It’s disappointing.”

She called it “being billed for the same thing twice.”

But Williams saw a solution on Monday night, when the Board of Trustees voted to ban the ambulance company from billing residents.

The previous law that allowed the company “to bill, directly, village residents for the use of its ambulance services … is hereby rescinded,” according to the measure members approved at their meeting. It also forgives all unpaid balances currently hanging against residents.

PJVAC will still be able to collect funds from the insurance companies.

Garant said there would be consequences “if we hear of any resident getting any more collection documents from the ambulance [district].”

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM

February is National Pet Dental Health Month and I thought this would be a good time to discuss pediatric dental health in pets. So, how young is too young to start evaluating the teeth? The evaluation actually starts on the first exam.

The first thing we veterinarians look for is occlusion. Occlusion refers to how the teeth contact each other. Proper occlusion is necessary not only for prehension (the chewing process where food is grabbed and brought into the mouth), but also mastication (the chewing process where food is crushed and ground by the teeth). If the teeth on the maxilla (upper portion of the jaw) and mandible (lower portion of the jaw) do not line up properly this not only makes the chewing process more difficult, but also leads to issues with your pet’s teeth later in life.

Why does it lead to problems? Well, just like us humans, dogs and cats plaque on their teeth. Plaque is a thin film of bacteria, saliva, and food will accumulate on the enamel of the tooth within 24 hours of last cleaning. If plaque is not removed it will mineralize within 10 days. (This is called tartar or calculus.)

Once tartar takes hold, a shift develops from aerobic bacteria (bacteria that need oxygen to survive) to nasty anaerobic bacteria (those that need little or no oxygen to survive). These anaerobic bacteria secrete toxins that inflame the gums and lead to small abscesses or pockets under the gums. If left unchecked, these bacteria start to destroy the periodontal ligament and perialveolar bone. This is very painful. I have seen many a pet where I could see that they were chewing on one side of their mouth by the amount of tartar and gingivitis on the other side. I have also had patients that go back to eating hard food after diseased teeth were extracted.

A mouth with normal or appropriate occlusion is like a self-cleaning oven. When your dog or cat is grabbing at food with the more rostral teeth (the teeth closer to the nose) it cleans the incisors, or front teeth, and canines, fang teeth; the friction removes plaque before it can develop into tartar and progress into more advanced periodontal disease. Ideally, the maxilla is slightly longer than the mandible. If the conformation of the jaw does not match this, there are options that can be discussed with your veterinarian.

The second thing we look at is proper eruption. Proper eruption of teeth refers to when the teeth first appear above the gumline. In puppies the deciduous, or temporary teeth, erupt between 4-6 weeks and kittens between 3-4 weeks. Adult teeth erupt in puppies between 4-7 months and, in kittens, between 4-6 months. The eruption of adult teeth triggers the resorption of the deciduous roots causing those teeth to spontaneously fall out. Unfortunately, in some cases that either does not happen in a timely manner, or at all.

Conditions such as delayed eruption, supernumerary (extra) teeth, or persistent deciduous teeth can occur for a variety of reasons but need to be diagnosed and treated early on. If not, these conditions not only lead to pain, but also lead to dental malocclusion and other problems (dental cysts, etc.).

Diagnosis of malocclusion, delayed eruption, and retained deciduous teeth early on (especially in severe cases) opens the discussion to early intervention, a key to preventing disease. So, get your pet to show their teeth (and hopefully not use them on the vet) at your next visit. SMILE!!

Dr. Kearns has been in practice for 16 years.

According to Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, harmful chemicals are also found in telephone poles. Photo by Giselle Barkley

After four decades the government is finally updating the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 with partial thanks to Brookhaven Town officials.

President Gerald Ford signed the act decades ago to regulate the introduction of new chemicals into society, excluding those found in food, pesticides, tobacco, firearms, drugs and cosmetics. The act gave the United States Environmental Protection Agency the authority to require documentation of chemical substances to determine if the chemical is hazardous to humans. The 62,000 chemicals that existed before 1976 were grandfathered into the act and deemed safe for humans and the act wasn’t updated until last year.

The government amended the act with Toxic Substances Control Modernization Act of 2015. Its bill, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act updates the act and requires the EPA to establish a risk-based screening process for new chemicals. Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and his fellow town board officials proposed the bill, which states the EPA must determine if a certain amount of old or new chemicals are safe for humans by a certain deadline. The EPA will reprimand manufacturers who don’t comply with safety requirements by restricting or prohibiting the creation, processing, distribution and disposal of new chemicals.

The EPA did not return requests seeking comment by press time.

According to Romaine, the uptick in cancer cases, particularly breast cancer on the North Shore, over the years was troubling. With advancements in science and technology scientists have found that some of the chemicals previously deemed as safe actually pose potential health risks for humans. This includes development of cancers and endocrine and immune system-related complications among other issues.

“We have a concern about the high rates of cancer in children and we’re concerned because people are trying to get answers,” Romaine said.

There were around 142.7 cases of cancer in Suffolk County between 2000 and 2004 according to the National Cancer Institute. The cases increased to around 528 per 100,000 people between 2008 and 2012 according to the cancer institute’s State Cancer Profiles.

County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), who has focused on the environment and its health effects for more than a decade, said these chemicals could be particularly harmful to children and their health.

“When you’re exposed to something when you’re growing up … it stays in your body,” Anker said. “As you get older something may set off the cancer…It takes decades sometimes for cancer to evolve.”

In a 2008-2009 study from the United States Department of Health and Human Services, scientists found 300 pollutants in the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies. According to the study, children are more vulnerable to chemical pollutants in the environment because of their size and poorer immune systems.

According to Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) these chemicals are found in everyday products like soaps and toothpastes among other items used on a daily basis. There are around 85,000 chemicals that are currently in use. But Zeldin said “the flaws in TSCA have left many of these new chemicals untested and unregulated.”

While Zeldin said the government should update important bills like TSCA, it’s common for some acts to go untouched for several years while others are updated almost annually.

“There are certainly examples of both extremes,” Zeldin said. “TSCA happens to be an example of one of those bills that really should have been updated many years ago, if not decades ago.”

Mather Hospital is set to join Northwell Healht. Photo from Huntington Hospital

It’s out with the old and in with the new at Huntington Hospital.

As of 2016, North Shore-LIJ Health System changed its name to Northwell Health as part of a rebranding and marketing campaign for the largest private employer and health care provider in New York across 21 hospitals including Huntington Hospital. The institution just finished its first month after a major facelift to the health system, and staffers said they were excited about the changes to the structure.

“Being highly visible and clearly understood within and beyond the New York metropolitan area requires strong brand recognition,” Michael J. Dowling, president and chief executive officer of Northwell Health said in a press release. “The Northwell Health name is a reflection of our past and a beacon of our future. It’s unique, simple and approachable, and better defines who we are and where we are going.”

Huntington Hospital first joined the North Shore-LIJ Health System in 1994, and has been able to expand its resources and services available to medical staff and patients because of this partnership. With this name change, Northwell Health administrators said the health system intends to build recognition and distinguish the organization “in a cluttered health care market,” according to a press release. Dropping a specific reference to Long Island was also an intentional move to broaden the scope of the coverage area, officials said.

“Our trustees recognized the need for a more consumer-friendly name that did not confine us geographically and reflects our emergence as a regional health care provider with a coverage area that extends beyond Long Island,” Northwell Health Board of Trustees Chair Mark L. Claster said in a press release.

Administrators from Huntington Hospital said they see the name change as a positive step forward.

“There’s a general excitement in the hospital over it,” said Susan Knoepffler, chief nursing officer and vice president of nursing at Huntington Hospital. “It has given us a new opportunity to put our hospital and the health system out there to the public.”

Knoepffler said the name change helps bring a focus to the preventative side of medicine and overall wellness that the hospital aims for.

Gerard X. Brogan, executive director of Huntington Hospital, echoed Knoepffler’s sentiment.

“It serves to sum up what our mission is,” he said in a phone interview. “We are focusing on how to promote wellness throughout the community. It’s really something we feel is the core of our mission as a community hospital.”

Reflecting on the history of Huntington Hospital, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, Brogan said the objective of this hospital has always been to provide medical care for the public and commit to helping people stay well.

‘The focus is to provide the community with the best healthcare right in their own backyard, and this will help make the community aware of the tremendous resources they have access to,” Brogan said.

Narcan, a drug that stops opioid overdoses. File photo by Jessica Suarez

Concerned that a loved one will overdose on drugs? Suffolk County is hosting training classes over the next few months to teach residents how to identify overdoses of opioid drugs — such as heroin, Vicodin and Percocet — and use the anti-overdose medication Narcan to rescue victims.

The county’s parting gift for people who show up to the program is an emergency resuscitation kit that contains Narcan as well as a certificate of completion.

The first class, on Feb. 4, will be a bit of a hike away, at the Mattituck firehouse on Pike Street from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. (RSVP to ihateheroin631@gmail.com).

There will be another in Greenlawn on Feb. 12, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Harborfields library on Broadway (RSVP to Sheila Sullivan at 631-271-8025 or sullivans@nysa.us).

A third will take place on Feb. 18 in Wyandanch, at the Wyandanch Community Resource Center on Straight Path from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. (RSVP to 631-643-1960 or mthomas@townofbabylon.com).

Following a March 3 course in Bohemia, at the Connetquot Public Library on Ocean Avenue from 6 to 7 p.m. (RSVP to 631-665-2311), the county is holding one at the Setauket firehouse on Nicolls Road. That event, on Thursday, March 31, will run from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Participants can RSVP to 631-854-1650 or seth.squicciarino@suffolkcountyny.gov.