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Georgia stresses treatment for pregnant drug users

Law enforcement officers in the South made 445,928 drug arrests in 2014.

Georgia is keeping pace with its neighbors, with more than 42,000 drug arrests in that period, but it’s taking a markedly more compassionate stance than neighboring states when the drug user is a pregnant woman.

The court-appointed special advocates for children program in Athens-Oconee.

The court-appointed special advocates for children program’s building in Athens-Oconee.

Four years ago, Georgia lawmakers rejected a bill that would have made it possible to file criminal charges against pregnant women who used drugs and later miscarried.

Women’s rights advocates said the bill’s vague wording that criminalized “human involvement” of any sort in miscarriages was a step toward establishing more fetal rights in Georgia law. Fetal rights are a controversial subject that go beyond disputes over abortion. (Some states, for instance, file feticide charges when an attack on a pregnant woman causes an end to her pregnancy, while other states do not.)  full story

RSV: Little-known virus a threat to babies

Peyton Hughes, at 4 months old, had trouble breathing. It looked like a cold, but his symptoms grew worse, and he was taken to Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville in February.

Peyton (left) and Jaxon Hughes.

Peyton (left) and Jaxon Hughes

He was diagnosed with respiratory syncytial virus. commonly known as RSV. Peyton was transferred to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Egleston hospital. He was soon joined by his twin brother Jaxon, who also had the virus.

“It was extremely scary, not knowing a lot about RSV,’’ says their mother, Emilee Hughes, a Hall County teacher.

Respiratory syncytial virus infects the lungs and breathing passages. Healthy people who get it usually experience mild symptoms that resemble those of the common cold, and recover in a week or two. But RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults.

It’s the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia in children younger than 1 year of age, according to the CDC.

RSV is associated with an estimated 300 infant deaths per year in the United States and 200,000 infant deaths worldwide. Each year in this country, an estimated 75,000 to 125,000 infants are hospitalized with RSV. Most are younger than 6 months of age.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta officials say they have seen RSV cases go up this year. full story

Commentary: Reducing premature births

Georgia recently slipped from a grade of “C” to a “D” on the March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card.

Callan Wells

Callan Wells

A big reason for premature births is poor health of mothers before they become pregnant, experts say.

In a new GHN Commentary, Callan Wells of the Georgia Legal Services Program says that if the state government wants to lower Georgia’s premature births, “it should start by publicizing available health programs and help women get enrolled and use their benefits fully.”

Wells cites a little-known Medicaid program as an example.

Here’s a link to her Commentary.

Georgia Health News welcomes Commentary submissions. If you would like to propose a Commentary piece for Georgia Health News, please email Andy Miller, editor of GHN, at

State’s grade on premature births drops

Georgia has received a lower grade on the latest March of Dimes report card on premature births, despite making progress since 2009 on reducing these preterm deliveries.

The state was given a “D” grade on the 2015 report card, dropping from a “C” grade a year ago.

A premature infant. Photo courtesy of the March of Dimes

An infant who was born premature. Photo courtesy of the March of Dimes

Georgia’s preterm birth rate was 10.8 percent in 2014, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. That rate places Georgia 44th among the states, according to the March of Dimes. The report, released Thursday, reflects new methodology that calculates the preterm rates.

The national preterm birth rate was 9.6 percent in 2014.

“Too many of our babies must fight to overcome the health challenges of an early birth,” says Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, president of the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, who is a Georgia March of Dimes board member.    full story

Be careful about spooky-looking contact lenses

Adding decorative contact lenses to a Halloween costume may have some scary health effects, federal officials warn.

ucm275217The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has announced a consumer warning ahead of Halloween about the dangers of counterfeit and unapproved decorative contact lenses.

The devices can make a person’s eyes look like those of a cat, zombie or vampire for Halloween, which is Saturday.

Under U.S. law, contact lenses are considered medical devices, and are regulated by the FDA. The agency recommends purchasing all forms of contact lenses from a licensed provider who requires a prescription.

But people often buy decorative lenses at holiday stores, convenience stores, novelty stores, flea markets, or online, and they tend to do it without an examination from a licensed eye doctor or a valid prescription. That is risky. full story

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