TIME Sex/Relationships

Fewer Teens Are Having Sex Than in the Past

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New data shows the number of teenagers who have sex continues to drop

The number of teenagers who have had sex has significantly dropped over the last quarter century, new federal data shows.

The number of teens from ages 15 to 19 who have had sex dropped 14% for females and 22% for males over the past 25 years, revealed new data published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics. According to the new report, which uses national survey data from 2011-2013, 44% of female teens reported having sex at least one time and 47% of men reported the same.

MORE: The Teen Birth Rate Is Now At an All-Time Low

The report shows that in the early teenage years, male teens were more likely than female teens to report having had sex, but by age 17, the rates were similar. Most teenagers said they used contraceptives. From 2011-2013, 79% of females and 84% of males said they used a contraceptive when they had sex for the first time and condoms were used most often. The data also shows that 60% of female teens said they had used withdrawal as a contraceptive method and 54% had used the pill. The CDC also reports that teenage women who did not use a contraceptive during their first sexual intercourse were twice as likely to become teen mothers compared to their peers who did use birth control.

Over the last 10 years of available data, the number of teenage girls who have used emergency contraception has also increased from 8% in 2002 to 22% in 2011–2013.

MORE: U.S. Teen Trends In Sex, Bullying, Booze and More

The new findings fall in line with other recent federal data showing the U.S. teen pregnancy and birth rate is on the decline, possibly due to a drop in sexual activity and an increased use of contraceptives. Why teenagers are reporting less sexual activity is not fully understood, but public health experts have credited the increase in contraceptive use to more education and lower costs for methods thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Still, the CDC notes in the new report that America’s rates remain higher than other developed countries.

TIME public health

Lyme Disease Has Surged 320% in America

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Climate change is among the reasons blamed

Lyme disease is not only becoming more rampant in its normal hotspot of the northeast United States, it’s spreading across the country, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns.

“Over time, the number of counties identified as having high incidence of Lyme disease in the northeastern states increased more than 320 percent,” researchers write in the report. They also note that the disease is appearing in states where its never been recorded before.

One big reason why Lyme disease is spiking, according to the CDC report: climate change.

Ticks tend to live in densely-forested areas and are preyed on by white mice. But forest clearing has killed off many mice, leaving ticks without a predator to keep them in check. With humans crossing this terrain, it means ticks have a fresh crop of victims to attack. And thanks to warmer temperatures, ticks are spreading their terrain into America’s heartland from their normal stronghold on the East coast.

Lyme disease is an infection caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria found on blacklegged deer ticks. The disease was identified in 1975. Symptoms include a high fever, headaches, fatigue, and a skin rash. If untreated, the infection can spread to joints, the heart and nervous system. In some instances, Lyme disease can be fatal.

New Jersey is typically considered the capital of Lyme disease in America, but it’s spreading across the Mid-Atlantic to the Midwest, with high-risk counties in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York, Iowa, Michigan, and Minnesota.

Click here to see what to do to prevent yourself against Lyme disease—and what to do if you have it.

TIME Drugs

Some Antidepressants Linked to Higher Risk of Birth Defects

Drugs Prozac and Paxil are linked to certain defects in a new study

A new study finds women who used certain antidepressants could be more likely to have babies born with rare birth defects.

According to the study of 28,000 women by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), certain birth defects were more common among users of antidepressants Prozac and Paxil.

Prozac usage was linked to defects like misshapen skulls and Paxil was associated with defects such as intestines growing outside of the baby’s body and missing parts of the brain and skull. Both drugs were linked to heart defects, according to the study.

The study’s authors note that the risks are very small and that there is no proof that the drugs cause defects, but they did discover a link between using the drugs in early stages of pregnancy and some defects. Women were asked if they used certain antidepressants in the time just before they conceived and during the first three months of pregnancy.

The study, which was published Wednesday in the British Medical Journal, follows several studies that linked the entire class of antidepressants to defects. The study, however, did not find links with birth defects in antidepressants Celexa, Lexapro or Zoloft.

 

TIME Research

90% of Americans Eat Too Much Salt

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A new report sheds light on Americans' sodium habits

Consuming too much sodium can be a risk factor for heart problems, and new federal data shows more than 90% of Americans eat too much.

The findings show that from 2011 to 2012, the average daily sodium intake among U.S. adults was 3,592 mg, which is well above the public health target set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) of 2,300 mg. The data comes from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) 2013 survey of 180,000 American adults in 26 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico. The findings were published Thursday in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

Some Americans, however, are taking action to cut back, the report shows. About half of the U.S. adults surveyed said they were monitoring or reducing their sodium intake, and 20% said they had received medical advice to do so. People with high blood pressure were more likely to report they were doing something about their sodium consumption, and overall, people in Southern states were more likely to report such action or advice from medical providers.

Public health experts argue that people without high blood pressure could also benefit from cutting back. “Among adults without hypertension, most did not report taking action to reduce sodium intake, and an even smaller proportion reported receiving professional advice to reduced sodium,” the study authors write. “These findings suggest an opportunity for promoting strategies to reduce sodium consumption among all adults, with and without hypertension.”

Sodium intake recommendations have been the focus of controversy, with some researchers arguing that sodium levels are safe and that cutting back to very low recommended levels could be harmful. Others argue that high sodium consumption is related to serious health complications and contributes to millions of deaths every year. Some groups recommend limits that are even lower than the HHS; for instance, the American Heart Association recommends less than 1,500 mg a day.

In the new CDC report, researchers say that a high sodium habit doesn’t come cheap; medical costs for cardiovascular disease are predicted to triple from $273 billion to $818 billion between 2010 to 2030, and cutting back on sodium intake by 1,200 mg a day could save $18 billion in costs each year, they say.

TIME Research

Rising Birth Rates a Good Sign for the Economy

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First increase since the recession

The number of children born in the U.S. increased in 2014 for the first time since the Great Recession, a sign that some women may be feeling financially stable enough to start a family.

The National Center for Health Statistics released a study Wednesday showing that both the number of births and the fertility rate in the U.S. increased by 1% in 2014, the first rise since 2007, when both demographic markers began dropping.

Last year, the U.S. birth rate had fallen to a 15-year low, according to NCHS data, with the number of births decreasing from 4.3 million in 2007 to 3.9 million in 2013, a 9% drop. Based on 2007 birth rates, University of New Hampshire demographer Ken Johnson estimates that there were 2.3 million fewer babies born between 2008 and 2013 than there would have been if the birth rate remained stable.

The falling birth rate has been one of the indirect consequences of the recession and of particular concern for demographers. Low birth rates over the long term, barring an influx of immigrants, can mean a population decline that leads to a smaller tax base and fewer people to financially support programs like Social Security and Medicare as the population ages.

Demographers have been trying to determine whether the economy forced women to merely delay childbirth or forego starting a family altogether. The latest numbers, while preliminary, suggest that women may just have been delaying.

The birth rate for women aged 30-34, many of whom were graduating from college and looking for jobs when the recession hit, rose 3% in 2014 and has steadily increased since 2011. The rate for women aged 35-39 increased by 3% while the rate for those aged 40-44 rose 2%.

For women aged 20-24, however, the birth rate decreased by 2%, and it remained steady for those aged 25-29, suggesting that many millennials are still putting off starting a family.

“We won’t know how significant this is unless it continues for the next few years,” said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, of the overall rise in birth rates. “But it’s a glimmer of hope that demographic responses are reacting to an improving economy.”

TIME Infectious Disease

Patient With Drug-Resistant Form of TB Treated in Maryland

The goverment is seeking people who may have come into contact with the patient

A patient diagnosed with a rare, drug-resistant form of tuberculosis has been taken to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Maryland for treatment, and the government is urgently trying to identify people whom the patient may have exposed to the illness.

The patient traveled from India to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport and spent time in Missouri and Tennessee before seeking treatment for “XDR-TB” and receiving a diagnosis seven weeks after arriving in the country, the CDC said. She was transferred to the NIH facility in Bethesda, Maryland via special air and ground ambulances.

“CDC will obtain the passenger manifest for [the India to Chicago] flight from the airline and will begin a contact investigation. Although the risk of getting a contagious disease on an airplane is low, public health officers sometimes need to find and alert travelers who may have been exposed to an ill passenger,” a spokesperson at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement.

Only about one third to half of XDR-TB cases have been cured and if the patient survives she may need months or even years of treatment. Cases of XDR-TB are very rare in the U.S. with only 63 cases reported between 1993 and 2011. People with H.I.V. infection or other infections that weaken the immune system are particularly vulnerable to this strain of TB.

TIME South Korea

Hundreds More Under Quarantine in South Korea as MERS Claims Seventh Victim

Eight new cases have been diagnosed, but officials are optimistic that the virus is being contained

South Korea authorities confirmed the death of another person diagnosed with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) on Tuesday, raising the toll from the outbreak to seven.

The latest victim was a 68-year-old woman who had previously suffered from chronic heart conditions before contracting the respiratory virus, according to the state news agency Yonhap.

Public health officials have been working frantically to contain the virus’s spread since the outbreak began on May 20. On Tuesday morning, authorities said that eight new cases of the virus had been diagnosed, raising the number of infections across the country to 95.

Over 2,800 people have been quarantined — up from 2,300 reported Monday — and more than 1,800 schools closed in an effort to halt the spread of the contagion.

However, health officials say progress is being made against the outbreak because infections have only been recorded at hospitals where a MERS patient has been treated, or which has been visited by somebody with MERS. So far, the disease has not emerged in the community at large.

“This week may be very crucial to overcoming MERS,” Prime Minister Choi Kyung-hwan told a meeting of top officials this week, reports Yonhap.

Public-health experts appear to concur that the risk of a rapidly spreading pandemic is low.

“The chance of a massive outbreak in South Korea is not high,” Ho Pak-leung, a microbiology expert at the University of Hong Kong, told Agence France-Presse. “Rather I think there will be continued transmissions at a low level.”

Despite the official optimism, governments across the globe asked their fellow citizens to exercise caution when traveling to the country.

Hong Kong, which experienced its own battle with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak in 2003 that claimed around 775 lives worldwide — 299 of them in Hong Kong — issued an official travel notice on Tuesday, advising its residents against “nonessential travel” to South Korea.

The city’s decree follows the issuing last week of a Level 1 travel advisory for South Korea made by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

TIME opioids

FDA Warned Drugmaker About Pain Pill Injection

Endo Pharmaceuticals Opana Drug Pain Killer
Tripplaar Kristoffer—Sipa/AP A logo sign outside of a facility occupied by Endo Pharmaceuticals in Malvern, Penn. on May 30, 2015.

A new form of pain killer could be driving addicts to inject the drug, hastening the spread of HIV

As officials in Indiana scramble to contain a fast-spreading HIV outbreak, TIME has learned that government officials warned one company that the newest version of a drug it manufactured could be driving behavior that is contributing to the crisis.

In May 2013, federal regulators from the Food and Drug Administration told Endo Pharmaceuticals, the maker of the widely used prescription pain pill Opana, that a new form of the medication could be driving abusers to inject the drug intravenously instead of snorting it.

The HIV outbreak in southern Indiana, which has ballooned from 8 cases in January to 166 as of June, is the result of addicts dissolving and injecting Opana, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local officials in Scott County, where the outbreak is centered. 96% of those who tested positive for HIV and were interviewed by the CDC said they were injecting Opana, according to an April health alert by the agency.

In 2012, Endo introduced a new version of the drug that it said was designed to be abuse deterrent. Where a previous version of the drug could be easily crushed and snorted or dissolved and injected, the new version had a special coating that supposedly made doing so more difficult. Endo removed the previous version from the market and asked the FDA to rule that it had been unsafe. Such a ruling would have prevented other drug makers from introducing generic versions of the pill.

The FDA denied Endo’s request, rejecting the company’s claims about the new coating’s ability to deter abuse. While the new formulation made it harder to crush and snort the drug, the FDA found, “it may be easier to prepare OPR for injection.” That raised, the FDA said, “the troubling possibility that the reformulation may be shifting a non-trivial amount of Opana ER abuse from snorting to even more dangerous abuse by intravenous or subcutaneous injection.”

Officials in Scott County say abusers discovered they could cook down the abuse deterrent version of the pill, dissolving it and preparing it for injection. Officials say addicts prefer the drug to heroin, even though it is more expensive, and the high doesn’t last as long. Addicts in Scott County have transmitted HIV to each other by sharing needles as they shoot up, sometimes as often as 20 times a day.

Endo, a Pennsylvania-based company that specializes in pain medications, earned $1.16 billion in revenue from Opana from 2008-2012. The company has denied Opana is at the heart of the outbreak and has suggested generic versions of its drug that didn’t have the “abuse deterrent” coating might be at fault, as discussed in the current cover story of TIME on opioid abuse in America:

In April, Endo held a conference call with public-health officials in Scott County. The Endo officials “thought it was a mistake,” says [Scott County public health nurse, Brittany] Combs, who was on the call. Around the same time, [Scott County Sheriff Dan] McClain says an Endo security official called him and offered to help investigate the source of the pills. The Endo official told him the drug being abused couldn’t be Opana because it had been reformulated to be “abuse deterrent.” McClain was skeptical. “I’ve got an evidence room full of Opana over there right now, and I don’t have any generic forms of that pill that are being purchased off the street,” McClain says.

Endo officials declined repeated requests to be interviewed for this article. In response to questions emailed to the company regarding its marketing of Opana and its response to the crisis in Scott County, Keri Mattox, senior vice president for investor relations, said, “Patient safety is a top priority for Endo,” and the company has “an ongoing, active and productive dialogue” with the FDA regarding Opana’s “technology designed to deter abuse.” Mattox says the company supports “a broad range of programs that provide awareness and education around the appropriate use of pain medications” and has reached out to the CDC, Indiana state officials and Scott County health and law enforcement officials, among others.

 

 

 

TIME public health

Here’s the Difference Between MERS and Ebola

Another disease without treatment or vaccine is spreading

The news sounds familiar: a virus with no treatment or cure is spreading abroad. But while Ebola dominated the infectious disease news over the last year, the latest infection making headlines is the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), which has most recently hit South Korea, infecting 87 there and killing 6.

Could the two viruses cause similar damage?

Currently, MERS doesn’t appear to be able to spread like Ebola can. Though it’s in the same family of viruses as SARS and the common cold—both highly contagious—MERS appears to be less transmittable. While Ebola spreads through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, MERS doesn’t spread easily from person to person, and though it spreads through the respiratory tract, very close contact is needed, which is why the risk is higher for health care workers.

Both diseases have high fatality rates (around 3 to 4 of every 10 patients reported with MERS have died) and like Ebola, there is no vaccine or cure for MERS. But right now, MERS is more of a mystery to the medical community.

“Ebola has been around for 40 years so we have a pretty good sense of how it functions and its genome has been pretty stable,” says Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “MERS emerged in 2012 and we are still learning about it, and it may still be learning about us and evolving. It’s believed that when SARS spent more time circulating among humans, it evolved and became more transmissible.” Frieden says they haven’t yet seen that in MERS, but they’re watching: the CDC is currently sequencing the genome of the virus to understand how it might be changing, and to track its course.

The chance that MERS could change to become more transmittable worries experts. “Personally, I am more concerned about MERS following the course of SARS than I ever will be regarding Ebola becoming widespread outside of certain regions of Africa,” says Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior associate at the Center for Health Security at the University of Pittsburgh.

MORE What Is MERS? Here’s What You Need To Know

MERS has yet to take that course, Frieden says, but hospitals can be hotbeds for the infection. Through intensive investigations in affected countries, the CDC has determined that more than 90% of the cases could be traced health care exposures. So far there hasn’t been evidence of sustained community spreading. “Hospitals can become amplification points,” says Frieden. “It’s the case in measles, it’s the case for drug-resistant tuberculosis, it’s the case for MERS and SARS and Ebola. That’s where sick people go and that’s where vulnerable people are. It really emphasizes the importance of good infection control in the health care system.”

In May of 2014, the U.S. experienced two cases of MERS. In both instances, the patients were health care providers who lived and worked in the Middle East. Health departments around the U.S. have the ability to test for the virus, and the U.S. has already tested around 550 people in 45 states as a precaution since the disease first emerged in 2012.

MERS and Ebola share an important similarity: a lack of treatments or vaccinations. There’s currently no vaccine. “If there were a vaccine, it’s the kind of thing that might be useful in the camel population, but that’s very theoretical for the future,” Frieden says.

Only 20% of countries are currently able to rapidly detect, respond to or prevent global health threats from emerging infections, like MERS and Ebola, according to CDC data. Countries around the world and official health emergency responders like the World Health Organization have vowed to increase their ability to act during outbreaks that public health experts say are undeniably in our future. Frieden says the CDC in partnership with other countries is accelerating its Global Health Security program, which will increase preparedness worldwide. The CDC is making visits to eight countries in the next six weeks to move the program forward.

“Bottom line, both Ebola and MERS are emerging infections that show us why it’s so important for every country in the world to be prepared to find and stop health threats when and where they emerge,” Frieden says. “We do think the South Korea outbreak will well grow, but there’s no reason to think it can’t be controlled as other outbreaks have been controlled.”

Read next: 6 Dead, 87 Infected, 2,300 Quarantined: South Korea’s MERS Crisis

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TIME Research

More Than a Quarter of American Adults Have Untreated Tooth Decay

American oral health could use a brush-up

New data on tooth decay and cavities among American adults reveal the sad state of our pearly whites. More than 25% of American adults ages 20 to 64 have untreated tooth decay, and 91% have one tooth — or more — that has been treated for tooth decay or needs to be.

The latest findings published Wednesday from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics show that while tooth decay and complete tooth loss have dropped among Americans since the 1960s, disparities still remain, and there’s room for improvement in our oral health.

MORE: The Sugar Industry Shaped Government Advice on Cavities, Report Finds

The data span 2011–2012 and reveal that Hispanic and black adults had more untreated cavities compared with white and Asian adults ages 20 to 64. Black adults had the highest rate at 42%.

About 1 in 5 adults age 65 and older had untreated tooth decay; American adults ages 20 to 39 were twice as likely to have all their teeth, compared with adults ages 40 to 64.

Though the current report only looks at adults, cavities are common among young people too. Even though cavities are preventable, tooth decay is four times more common than asthma in teens ages 14 to 17. It’s the most common chronic disease among kids and adolescents ages 6 to 19.

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