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norberthedog/Instagram(NEW YORK) -- Nine years ago, Julie Steines was looking on Petfinder for her first dog and stumbled upon a little white ball of fluff that was just 4 months old.

"I never had a dog before and just saw him and said, 'Oh my gosh, that's him!'" Steines told Good Morning America.

This adorable pup named Norbert would grow up to be a social media sensation. But the tiny, high-fiving therapy dog didn't get to where he is today overnight.

The award-winning author said she knew it was meant to be and "he was just my buddy from the start and I took him everywhere. He was just used to being around lots of people."

It was this level of comfort that made the little guy perfect as a therapy puppy. And that's where his fame began.

Norbert started volunteering at a local retirement home, and Steines' brother said she should start a Facebook page.

"He slowly started to get a following, mostly just friends and family at first," she said. "Then I had this dream to publish a children's book with my mother. We thought Norbert's story of finding his purpose in life as a therapy dog would translate beautifully to a picture book. I was the author, and my mother was the illustrator. It did remarkable well."

Norbert's social media grew from there, and the family added an Instagram page as well. With more than 1 million followers on Facebook and 600,000 on Instagram, Norbert has quite the fan base.

"Now he has four books, and we just made a plush toy," she said. "It wasn't this overnight success-type thing at all. It's been quite a journey, something I never anticipated."

Norbert and Steines are about much more than social media; they are about making people smile. In addition to his travels to retirement homes and children's hospitals, Norbert made a special trip to see a very special boy.

Steines said she got an email one day from someone in California.

"Their son had cancer, and they asked if Norbert could make him smile," she said. "I just had this feeling I was supposed to do more."

She went ahead and asked her husband if they could fly to the boy's home and surprise him for Christmas.

"We went to their house, hung out for an hour and gave him high fives," she said. "It was one of the most memorable things Norbert and I have done. Sadly, the boy passed away, but we are still connected to the family on social media. They are just such wonderful people, and it breaks our hearts that anyone would have to go through something like that."

While Norbert has a huge platform, the foundation for everything the duo does is "giving back," she said.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- If running is good for you, is running 100 miles better?

ABC News' latest digital documentary, Ice Runner, focuses on Alicja Barahona, a 64-year-old resident of Greenburgh, Westchester, just outside Manhattan. She's been running ultramarathons for the past 20 years. This year, she tackled the Baikal Ice Marathon, a standard 26.2 miles across a nonstandard terrain: the frozen surface of the deepest lake in the world, Russia’s Lake Baikal in southeast Siberia.

More than 2 million Americans participate in long-distance races -- marathons or more -- each year, and this number is on the rise. Why? Increased public awareness of health benefits of exercise, social media and maybe even the "Oprah effect." (Oprah Winfrey famously ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 1994.)

In general, exercise is your body’s greatest ally. But along with millions tackling 2 miles around the track, a 5K or even a 26.2-mile marathon, some take running to an extreme with the ultramarathon.

What is an ultramarathon?

There are two types of ultramarathon events: those that cover a specific distance, and those that are time-driven -- that is, whoever covers the most distance in a certain amount of time takes home the laurel wreath. The most common distances are 31, 50, 62 and 100 miles, but there are even races that cover more than 1,000 miles.

What are the effects of running long distances on the heart?

It can be positive for the heart. With intense athletic training, there are some normal changes to the heart, depending on the type of exercise. Triathlon competitors have small increases in size to the heart chambers (ventricles) and small increases in thickness of the heart muscle. These changes are considered adaptive, meaning they are changes that allow the heart an increased ability to pump oxygen and blood to the exercising tissues.

Is there a downside?

Yes, occasionally. As several studies show, those who participate in endurance sports are at increased risk of atrial fibrillation (an irregular and rapid heart rate) and atrial flutter (abnormal heart rhythm) compared to those who do not participate in endurance sports. Doctors don’t yet know how to prevent this.

“Much of the data points toward atrial fibrillation with long-term running -- it's unclear if it’s related to a single marathon,” said Dr. Matthew Martinez, associate chief of cardiology at Lehigh Valley Health.

Dr. Micah Eimer, co-director of the sports cardiology program at Northwestern Medicine, advises runners to take it slow.

“Patients who engage in low and moderate intensity exercise can decrease their risk of atrial fibrillation. However, patients who exercise at the extreme levels of exertion appear to have a significantly increased risk of developing atrial fibrillation,” Eimer said.

Runners can feel it and sometimes notice it if they are wearing a heart rate sensor. “Usually they will return the device assuming that it is malfunctioning,” Eimer said. “After they get the same result on a new monitor, they come to the office, where we diagnose them with atrial fibrillation.”

If running is good for us, more running is better, right? Or is 100 miles too much?

Doctors say it’s a matter of running “dosage.”

“Low-level exercise will reduce your risk of dying from heart disease, and up to a point, the more you exercise, the lower your risk. But above a certain level -- which is about three times per week -- the benefit is attenuated,” Eimer said, pointing to research on very long-distance runners. “In one study, those patients had a risk level that was the same as patients who did not exercise at all. My recommendation to patients is that moderate exercise strikes the right balance between long-term risk and benefit."

What about runners and sudden death?

Running-related cardiac arrests are rare events, according to several studies. One study of 10.9 million half-marathon/marathon runners from 2000 to 2010 estimated 0.54 deaths per 100,000 participants, which makes marathoning about 20 times less dangerous than riding in a car, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sudden death in people younger than 35, runners or not, is usually due to undiscovered heart defects or overlooked heart abnormalities, which are very rare. The most common cause of sudden cardiac death in the young is a condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a rare disorder caused by abnormal genes that lead the heart muscle to grow abnormally thick. Other causes include coronary artery abnormalities -- if you are born with coronary arteries that are connected abnormally -- and an electrical rhythm problem called Long QT syndrome, an inherited heart disorder that can cause fast, chaotic heartbeats, leading to fainting and potentially death.

Sudden death in people 40 or older is usually due to coronary artery disease.

So, should people be medically evaluated before signing up for a marathon or ultramarathon?

In Italy, young athletes are routinely screened with an electrocardiogram (EKG), which has led to a decrease in sudden cardiac death. However, given the low incidence of sudden cardiac death and the high number of false positive results -- detecting an abnormality when there is none -- screening all athletes with an EKG is not practical or recommended.

The American Heart Association (AHA) does not recommend the use of diagnostic tests, which are reserved as a follow-up if an initial screening raises suspicions about the presence of heart disease.

But older runners should be careful, doctors say.

Martinez of Lehigh Valley Health said he feels that older patients should “absolutely consult with their local doctor, ideally a sports cardiologist" to discuss "overall health, preparation and to understand risks of running a marathon” before lacing up their running shoes.

If you try long-distance running, what should you be aware of?

ELECTROLYTE BALANCE: If you run a lot, you inevitably get thirsty. But drinking too much water can dilute the sodium that should be in your body. In severe cases, this is an emergency. Get help if you have nausea and vomiting, headache, confusion, drowsiness and fatigue. You can also disturb your electrolyte balance if you allow yourself to dehydrate.

HYPOTHERMIA: In cold conditions, runners can slip into hypothermia, in which their body temperatures drop below 95 degrees Fahrenheit internally when energy stores are depleted. Cramps and mental confusion -- particularly amnesia -- are common. It typically occurs in slow-moving runners, particularly on wet, cold or windy days. To recover, forget the heat sheet; instead, head inside, get dry and warm, and drink a warm and sugary drink.

HEATSTROKE: Exercise-induced hyperthermia happens when temperatures or humidity are high, the runner hasn’t trained enough, or he or she isn’t drinking enough water. Potentially lethal, heatstroke affects one in 10,000 marathon runners. Symptoms include cramps, shivering and confusion.

Is running 100 miles in an ultramarathon good for your knees?

Contrary to popular belief, your knees are probably fine, according to Malachy McHugh, director of research at the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma of Northwell Health.

“It is definitely not bad for your knees," McHugh said. "Long-distance runners do not have a higher incidence of osteoarthritis or cartilage damage than non-runners or less extreme runners. In general, running may indirectly may be good for your knees because it will help keep your body mass low, and that will mean less stress on the knees in the long term.”

Advice to heed before picking up long-distance running?

McHugh recommended talking to a "good sports nutritionist before competing and preferably before starting to train."

Martinez said to make sure to pay attention to training, hydration and nutrition.

And if you get blisters? Don’t touch them until your feet are clean and dry, and leave the skin alone. And that’s advice you can use even if you’re just running around the block.

Sunny Intwala, M.D., is a third-year cardiology fellow affiliated with Boston University School of Medicine and a clinical exercise physiologist who works in the ABC News Medical Unit.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Silent, uncomfortable, forlorn, withdrawn -- these are all feelings likely felt by the lonely.

Research shows that these feelings don’t just cause emotional stress, they are part of a real association between social isolation and negative health outcomes. For the first time, studies are looking at heart failure in lonely people.

Over 6 million people live with heart failure in the United States, with over 960,000 new cases diagnosed each year. By 2030, there may be more than 8 million cases of heart failure.

“One in five Americans over the age of 40 are affected by heart failure,” Dr. Clyde Yancy, American Heart Association (AHA) spokesperson and chief of the cardiology division at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, told ABC News.

It’s a condition that makes the heart unable to pump enough blood to the body, and heart failure already takes up millions of healthcare dollars each year. Research shows that one in four of these 6 million patients with heart failure feel moderate to high levels of social isolation.

Young single women with heart failure were more likely to see themselves as socially isolated, and those with this feeling of social disconnection are more likely to require more healthcare spending than a typical patient with heart failure.

“Moderate” social isolation was linked to a 16 percent increased risk in outpatient visits, and “high” social isolation boosted that increased risk up to 26 percent. These patients also have over three and a half times the risk of death, a 68 percent increase in the risk of being hospitalized, and a 57 percent increased risk of an emergency room visit when compared to other heart failure patients.

Treating heart failure patients, the study says, is about more than their body. Asking patients about their subjective feelings of seclusion and loneliness can be important in identifying those who are at a higher risk.

"Those who are most successful in taking care of their disease are those who have a partner at their side, or a team, so they are not going about their disease by themselves. A team is important in regards to maintaining hope and preventing medical errors at home, and those with a team seemingly do better,” Yancy said.

Intervening early in the course of the disease to reconnect the patient to their community may improve outcomes in those who feel alone.

Yancy agreed that awareness of loneliness is the first step, and an increase in support networks should be available for those patients to aid in their healthcare success.

Eric M. Ascher, DO, is a third-year family medicine resident from New York working in the ABC News medical unit.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The investigation into the latest deadly school shooting is far from over, but that hasn't stopped some people from drawing conclusions about the alleged shooter's influences.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick argued that violent video games have created young people who are "desensitized to violence."

"Many [students] have lost empathy to their victims by watching hours and hours of video, violent games," Patrick said on ABC News' "This Week" Sunday, two days after 10 people died at a Santa Fe high school.

There’s no evidence indicating how often the alleged shooter, a student at the school, played video games, if at all.

But there’s nothing new about the line of thinking that violent video games are a causal factor in deadly shootings, prompting years of research that has resulted in a range of conclusions.

Both sides of the argument

Some say there is no connection between the shooting that takes place in virtual reality and real life, while others say it can be one of any number of contributing factors.

Two experts with differing opinions include Chris Ferguson, a psychology professor at Stetson University in Central Florida, and Douglas Gentile, a psychology professor at Iowa State University, who have both worked on numerous studies on the topic.

An overview of many studies will show that "we really don't see evidence that early playing of violent video games are related to later criminal violence behaviors or related to serious problems like bullying or dating violence," Ferguson said.

But Gentile notes that many active studies don't include criminal violence or shootings because it would be unethical to allow subjects to participate in such activity.

For Ferguson, the debate is "a generational thing," as many of the people who point a finger at violent video games tend to be older and inclined to use them as a scapegoat because of a lack of understanding and familiarity with the games.

"We're seeing more and more skepticism" of any perceived connection between violent video games and violent offenders, he said, "and I think that's because people that were gamers 20 years ago are now in their 40s and now they are journalists and politicians and scholars. So it's kind of like rock music in the ‘80s, when people thought [heavy metal band leader] Ozzy Osborne was the end of society and now nobody thinks Ozzy Osbourne was the end of society."

Iowa State’s Gentile doesn’t dismiss the connection outright, however, noting that rather than being the singular cause, exposure to media violence, which includes violence on television and in movies as well as on video games, is one of a number of contributing factors that could make someone more inclined to act aggressively.

"A higher consumption of media violence makes people more willing to behave aggressively when provoked," Gentile told ABC News.

He pointed out that there are any number of other risk factors and protective factors -- including an individual's sex (boys are naturally more disposed to be violent than girls, he said), how they're doing in school, whether they're being bullied or whether they come from a stable home -- that play significant roles as well.

"Every time we have a tragedy like a school shooting, we ask the wrong question: We ask what was the cause ... we assume there was a single cause," he said.

"We don't do things for a single reason only, ever."

Whatever the causes, the American Psychological Association (APA) passed a resolution in 2015 declaring that “scientific research has demonstrated an association between violent video game use and both increases in aggressive behavior, aggressive affect, aggressive cognitions and decreases in prosocial behavior, empathy, and moral engagement,” among other findings.

As a result, the group called for further research and study in different areas of the issue and called on the rating system for video games to be refined, as well as further education for students and families.

More than 90 percent of U.S. children play some kind of video games, according to the APA.

Past examples

The investigation into the Santa Fe shooting is ongoing and no findings either confirming or denying any connection to video games have been reported, but the investigations into prior shootings have raised the possible connection.

One of the earliest was the 1999 shooting in Columbine, Colorado, where the two shooters were found to be fans of first-person shooter video games.

"Those kids had uninvolved parents," Iowa State’s Gentile said of shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. "Those kids had psychiatric illnesses. Those kids had been bullied. Those kids also consumed media violence. Those are just some of the risk factors. Which one was the cause?"

Stetson University’s Ferguson pointed to other instances where shooters did play some violent video games while also having a lengthy history of playing other nonviolent video games. Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho was reportedly a fan of “Sonic the Hedgehog,” and Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza had a history of playing shooting games but also spent hours playing “Dance Dance Revolution.”

"When a shooter is an older male or more rarely a female, the issue of video games is never brought up," Ferguson said, citing the Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock as one such example.

"It allows people to preserve this narrative," he said.

Likeliness of changes in the laws


When it came time for the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on the violent video game debate in 2011, and in their case, the justices ruled on the side of video games, interpreted them as being protected under the First Amendment rights.

The case stemmed from a California law that banned minors from buying violent video games while unsupervised. The state court had nullified the law, which was backed by Gov. Jerry Brown, and the Supreme Court upheld the lower court's decision, voting 7-2 against the California law.

"Psychological studies purporting to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children do not prove that such exposure causes minors to act aggressively," the syllabus of the decision reads.

Gentile said that given the First Amendment protections, "limiting access [to video games] is probably never going to work in this country, but what could work better is having a universal rating system."

The current rating system used on video games in the United States includes grades of E for Everyone, E 10 for content generally suitable for ages 10 and up, T for Teen or those 13 and older, M for Mature which denotes 17 and up, and Adults Only for those 18 and over.

President Donald Trump touched on the confusion over rating systems during a listening session with gun violence victims at the White House in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, shooting this year. In his comments, Trump seemed to suggest that there should be a violence-specific rating on movies and video games, or perhaps it should be incorporated more into the existing systems.

For Gentile's part, making a universal rating system across all kinds of media "could improve the information that's given to parents,” he said.

The issue, as he sees it, is a matter of limiting any risk factors as necessary, because certain factors that researchers believe have an impact on physical violence -- like being male or living in poverty -- are impossible or hard to change, while others -- like media violence consumption -- are within grasp.

"If your kid doesn't have any other risk factor for aggression, [violent video games are] probably not going to prompt your kid into hitting other people, and certainly not going to turn them into a school shooter,” Gentile said.

“But that's different from saying it had no effect because if something really had no effect on you, you'd call it boring. So we like the way media violence makes us feel scared and excited and has that adrenaline rush.”

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Creatas/Thinkstock(LAS VEGAS) -- Hours after tragedy struck at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 1 of last year, an unlikely connection was discovered between an injured survivor and the doctor that saved his life.

Philip Aurich and his girlfriend Alyson Opper were at the music festival when the barrage of bullets began raining down on them.

"You hear the first burst and it sounds very robotic; the second round happens and then everyone realizes what it is," Aurich told ABC affiliate KSTP-TV. "It starts again and we get down on the ground, and that's when I got shot on the left side."

The couple began to make their way out of the concert venue when Aurich realized he couldn't breathe because a bullet had punctured his lung, he said. Once outside the venue gates and after several attempts to get into an ambulance, Aurich and Opper were loaded into a police officer's squad car and taken not to the closest hospital, but to University Medical Center.

Aurich was in a line of gurneys in a hallway when a doctor walked by, stopped and said, "He's got to go next."

The doctor, Dr. Timothy Dickhudt, had just wrapped up a 13-hour shift at the hospital when he rushed back to help with the incoming patients from the concert.

"He was pale, diaphoretic, confused, he just didn't look right, after seeing his vitals and then the eyeball test, I saw where he was shot and absolutely knew he needed to go to the operating room as soon as possible," Dickhudt told KSTP-TV.

The bullet entered Aurich's left side, pierced his lung, diaphragm and colon, breaking two ribs and shattering his spleen before it ended up back in his chest, lodged a centimeter from his heart.

After the successful surgery, Aurich and Dickhudt discovered that they actually grew up just a few miles apart from each other in a Twin Cities, Minnesota, community. The coincidences continued when Aurich told KSTP-TV that Dickhudt's dad "and my mom went to grade school together and our grandmas grew up being very, very tight-like best friends."

Aurich said he is grateful to not be remembered on the memorial fence on the Las Vegas strip, calling it divine intervention. "It's a great story, I think even he will admit, it's a unique story," Aurich said.

"Very unique, I've never had something like this before. It's special, it was something special, there was a unique bond formed there," Dickhudt said.

The two have now become much more than just patient and surgeon.

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Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The mayor of Washington, D.C., is a 45-year-old single woman who has worked her way to the very top of the city’s government, becoming the youngest person and only the second woman to be mayor.

Mayor Muriel Bowser is now also breaking new ground in political office as a single mom with the announcement she has adopted a baby.

“As any new mother would feel — I am thrilled, nervous and looking forward to each and every stage,” Bowser said in a statement Monday. “I will be taking the next week or so to enjoy these precious moments with my new baby. I am so grateful to be able to start my family in this wonderful way.”

Bowser, who has served as mayor since 2015, revealed that she started the adoption process last year.

“I decided to start the adoption journey, just knowing that it was a great time in my life and I had so much to share with a baby," she told WUSA9, adding that the baby came to her sooner than expected.

"What I've learned from Washingtonians all over our city, is that people start their families in many different ways," Bowser said. "And I have been encouraged by many people to make sure that not only do I pour my heart and soul into being mayor and to governing a great city, but also to think about a family."

She did not share details about her plans for childcare once she returns to work.

The average cost of childcare in Washington, D.C., is $1,886 per month, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Bowser announced in April that she would include $12.5 million in her 2019 budget toward "making early child care more affordable for all District residents" through a refundable tax credit and increased funding to local child care providers.

During Bowser's term as mayor, she has also launched a website, MyChildCareDC.org, that allows parents to search and compare child care options and last year started an initiative to provide more resources for maternal and child health, according to her office.

“It's very, very real and I feel grateful that I have a wonderful family, a wonderful support team to support me in this adoption journey," Bowser told WUSA9.

Bowser is not the first women in public service to welcome a child while in power -- Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., recently did it age the age of 50 -- but she does stand out for doing it on her own.

In the United States, 23 percent of children only live with their mother, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Bowser said she believes her new role will not take away from her job, but add to it.

"It certainly gives me another point of view," she told WUSA9. "I have, we have, been very focused on families in this administration making sure that we do everything for schools and child care and great play spaces and safe neighborhoods."

Bowser received quick congratulations on Twitter from a fellow D.C. legislator who also broke new ground as a mom.

“Zoe can’t wait to meet her new friend,” wrote Council member Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1).

Nadeau gave birth to her daughter, Zoe, while in office last year and, in December, pumped during a public hearing on housing.

After Duckworth, an Iraq veteran and double leg amputee, gave birth to her daughter in April, the U.S. Senate passed a rule change that will allow her, and any woman of the Senate, to bring babies onto the floor and breastfeed them as needed.

In the statehouse in Iowa, Rep. Megan Jones made headlines this year when she returned to work in the State Capitol a mere 13 days after giving birth to her daughter, Alma.

Bowser's adoption announcement and the progress made by politicians who are also moms comes amid a so-called "pink wave" of women running for office across the U.S.

Some of those female candidates have included themselves breastfeeding in their campaign ads — a move they say underscores the dynamic role of mothers in the political sphere.

“It was no accident. It’s my life. It’s the reality of working moms — taking care of family, juggling work and getting the job done,” Krish Vignarajah, a Maryland gubernatorial candidate, told ABC News. “I hope the ad drives a conversation about the lack of representation in elected office in Maryland and the policy consequences of that lack of diversity.”

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ABCNews.com(GLENPOOL, Okla.) -- These firefighter experienced a serious baby boom after seven of them welcomed newborns just months apart.

The ladder-men of Glenpool Fire Department in Glenpool, Oklahoma, posed with their kids on Sunday in adorable photos snapped by Avery Dykes, the mom to the oldest baby in the bunch.

"It was just crazy because we just kept having pregnancy after pregnancy after pregnancy," Dykes told ABC News on Tuesday. "The third baby who was born after mine, it was her mom's idea. She saw a photo on Pinterest and said, "We should do this."

"[It was] challenging, but having four kids and experience with photography helped, of course," Dykes added of the photo session. "I thought they were cute no matter what."

The babies entered the world in the following order.

Jovie Gray Dykes born Feb. 7, 2017, to Kendall and Avery Dykes.

Cohen Miles Todd born May 26, 2017, to Dusty and Melanie.

Saylor Rene Shanks born July 31, 2017, to Sam and Allysa Shanks.

Bodie Owen McMurrian born Oct. 27, 2017, to Kyle and Amber McMurrian

Henley Noel Hutchinson born Jan. 8, 2018, to Dusty and Sarah Hutchinson.

Kadance Joyce Groom born Jan. 12, 2018, to Darin and Miranda Groom.

Gracie Lynn Whitney born April 20, 2018, to Mick and Carrie Whitney.



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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Good news -- cancer deaths are down overall.

Cancer deaths dipped almost 2 percent a year between 1999 and 2015 among men, about 1.5 percent a year for women, according to a new report. And although cancer rates actually increased slightly between 2010 and 2014 for children -- 1 percent a year -- their death rate also dropped 1.5 percent between 2011 and 2015.

This joint report of the American Cancer Society, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Cancer Institute, and the North American Associate of Central Cancer Registries measured how well the medical "war on cancer" progresses.

These are significant declines, reflecting more accurate and successful cancer treatments, and better detection as well. Cancer detected at earlier stages has more treatment options and a better five-year survival rate.

Unfortunately, the statistics show that this progress in reducing cancer deaths hasn't occurred for each type of cancer. Death rates are down for lung and colorectal cancers in both men and women, for instance, but up for pancreatic and liver cancers for both genders. Death rates are down for breast and prostate cancer as well. Rates and trends by race and ethnic groups still differ.

As to how many cancers occur (rather than how well we survive them), the rate of cancer came down 2.2 percent a year for men between 2008 and 2014; it was stable for women.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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Jackie Wesselman/Reily Township Fire and EMS(COLUMBUS, Ohio) -- This was a rescue that emergency workers in Germantown, Ohio, won't soon forget.

A horse that is more than 20 years old and blind fell backward into an 8-foot-deep well pit on containing pressure tanks and pumps on Sunday morning, Germantown Fire Chief Dan Alldred told ABC News.

“When I arrived, all that was sticking out was her head and two front feet,” Alldred said.

The cover of the well pit had been removed, though it wasn’t clear why, he said.

With the help of an equine veterinarian, Dr. John Nenni, the owners, who have not yet been identified, had cinched some straps around the mare to prevent her from slipping further down the 3-foot-square opening and called the authorities, Alldred said.

One of the responding agencies, Reily Township Fire, has special training in large animal rescue, said Lt. Roy Wesselman of the department. He said that as often as eight times a year the agency is called in on incidents such as livestock trailer accidents and animals' getting stuck in unusual spots.

The veterinarian sedated the horse in the well, which allowed rescuers to strap the mare to a plastic board called a rescue glide. They then attached the rescue glide to a piece of heavy machinery known as a trackhoe that they used to lift the roughly 1,000-pound animal up and out of the well, Alldred and Wesselman confirmed.

“We had to use the trackhoe to pick up the horse, along with a bunch of manpower to slide her up and out on a slide board,” Alldred said.

Once she was safely out the hole, Nenni worked to reverse the effects of the sedation. About two and a half hours after authorities arrived on the scene, the mare was up and walking around, Alldred said.

“She’s going to be stiff and sore. She had minor injuries, scrapes, bumps and bruises, some swelling,” Wesselman said. “But she was up eating grass and walking around when we cleared the scene.”

Nenni told ABC News that this was his first time being involved in extracting an animal from a hole. The veterinarian said he relied mostly on what he had learned in a class to know what to do.

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DigitalVision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As the deadly Ebola virus rises again in central Africa, health officials have decided to try a different approach to fight back –- rushing more than 7,500 doses of an experimental Ebola vaccine to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

At least 26 deaths have been tied to the current outbreak of Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Bikoro Health Zone, Equateur Province, according to the World Health Organization. There were 46 confirmed and suspected cases identified as of May 20, according to the Ministry of Health in the DRC. Since Ebola has a three-week incubation period, health officials fear the number will soon rise.

The WHO has received approval to use an experimental Ebola vaccine, using a "ring vaccination" approach, around the epicenter of the outbreak in the Congo. In addition to the current available doses, another 8,000 will be available in the coming days, the organization said.

"We need to act fast to stop the spread of Ebola by protecting people at risk of being infected with the Ebola virus, identifying and ending all transmission chains and ensuring that all patients have rapid access to safe, high-quality care," Dr. Peter Salama, deputy director-general for emergency preparedness and response at the World Health Organization said.

This is the vaccination and strategy the WHO is deploying, along with medical partners from the DRC Ministry of Health, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), UNICEF, and the Ministry of Health of Guinea, to fight Ebola:

How is Ebola transmitted to people?

Outbreaks of Ebola virus appear to begin when a human comes into contact with an infected animal or its body fluids. Subsequent person-to-person transmission happens after physical contact with the body fluids of a living or deceased patient –- blood, vomit, diarrhea, even semen. Health care workers are often infected as they care for patients, unless they have taken extreme measures to protect themselves.

What are the current treatments for Ebola?

There is no cure for Ebola, so the mainstay of treatment for Ebola virus involves supportive care to maintain adequate organ function, giving the patient’s immune system time to mobilize and eliminate the infection.

Several experimental antiviral therapies were used to treat patients who contracted the virus during the 2014 to 2016 outbreak in West Africa, but it's not clear how effective those drugs were and they are in very short supply.

Why this vaccine?

This vaccine was developed to help protect people who have not yet been infected with Ebola. It has been proven safe and effective in human trials, but it has not received a license, so it's still considered experimental.

In the past, U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted the vaccine what is known as a breakthrough therapy designation -- a status reserved for medicines designed to treat serious or life-threatening illnesses.

The vaccine, which is referred to as both VSV ZEBOV and V920, was developed by Merck and has demonstrated the ability to cut the risk of infection in human trials.

In September 2014, WHO identified both VSV and the ChAd3 vaccine as the most advanced candidates for use in the West African outbreak, mainly because both appeared to protect people after a single inoculation.

More than 3,500 people were vaccinated with VSV in 2015, as part of a large trial at the end of Ebola outbreak in Guinea.

Why is this approach different?
This vaccine was designed for use in a so-called "ring vaccination" approach, a strategy used in 1977 to control smallpox. The idea is to vaccinate health care workers who care for those affected, people who know someone who has been infected and then the another group who know those people, in an expanding "ring" around the infections.

Each "ring" may have 100 to 150 people, according to WHO estimates. The vaccines are being given to them free of charge.

So far, 600 people have been identified as part of the "ring" around people who are known or suspected to have been infected in the Congo. There is enough vaccine in stockpiles to cover those identified and many more.



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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Suicide-related hospital visits for children have increased sharply in the U.S., new research finds.

The study in Pediatrics found that from 2008 to 2015 the proportion of children's hospital visits arising from suicide attempts or suicidal thinking nearly doubled from .81 percent to 1.55 percent.

Teens aged 15 to 17 showed the biggest increase. And, while the proportion of suicide-related hospital visits rose for both boys and girls, the increase was higher for girls.

The study also found that hospital visits for suicide attempts or suicidal thinking by children are lowest during summer and highest in the fall and spring.

"The growing impact of pediatric mental health disorders has important implications for children’s hospitals and health care delivery systems," concluded the study's authors, doctors from children's hospitals in Nashville and Philadelphia and a researcher from the Children's Hospital Association.

The research team examined trends in emergency visits and hospitalizations at children's hospitals using billing data from the Pediatric Health Information System database at 49 children’s hospitals. About 116,000 hospital visits were studied.

The influence of multiple factors, including race and household income, was examined. Although there was a rise in suicide-related hospital visits among all racial groups, the increase was highest for non-Hispanic white youth.

A family's income level also seemed to be a factor, with children from the lowest-income families bucking the trend by showing a slight decrease in the proportion of hospital visits related to suicide, dropping from 26 percent in 2008 to 23 percent in 2015.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among U.S. teens and preteens, with suicide rates having risen by 24 percent over the past 15 years, the study notes.

People who either try to kill themselves or think about or plan how to do it are at higher risk of repeated suicide attempts, the study says, citing prior research. "Up to 27 percent of children and adolescents ages 10 to 18 who present with a first suicide attempt will have a second one," the study says.

Prior research has shown that boys are more likely than girls to commit suicide. “Adolescent boys are less likely to express suicidal ideation or attempts, but they are actually more likely to die by suicide”, Dr. Ruth Gerson, assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at NYU Langone Health, told ABC News.

Social media can play a role in suicide rates, especially when a child is a victim of cyberbullying, Gerson said.

Many teens see social media as a way to connect with their friends, she said. But “social media can't be a replacement for in-person relationships. Likes and retweets are not a replacement for a real-life shoulder to cry on.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The only way to test for symptoms of stomach or esophageal cancer is to undergo an upper endoscopy, a test that can be invasive, cost thousands of dollars and has a small percentage of success in actually finding a tumor.

Researchers in the U.K. wanted a diagnostic tool that would be easier and cheaper to test for these cancers so they used a noninvasive breath test to collect samples of 500cc of exhaled breath from 335 people, 172 of which they knew had those cancers, after a minimum four-hour fast.

The exhaled breath was quickly analyzed for five previously identified volatile organic compounds (VOCs), known to have some association with gastric and esophageal cancers (VOCs happen with other cancers, including lung, bladder, and breast). The researchers were looking for evidence of butyric acid, pentanoic acid, hexanoic acid, butanal and decanal.

The results were published in the journal JAMA Oncology.

The breath test was able to accurately identify esophageal or gastric cancer about 80 percent of the time.

Dr. Raja Flores, chairman of the Department of Thoracic Surgery at Mount Sinai Health System, told ABC News that endoscopy is underutilized in the U.S. Flores, who was not involved in the U.K. study, noted that the breath test is not the current standard of care.

If this new diagnostic tool is proven to succeed, many doctors might want to change their approach to patients and how they screen cancer.

This article was written by Chantel Strachan, MD, a second-year internal medicine resident from the University of Connecticut who works in the ABC News Medical Unit.

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Spencer Platt/Getty Images(BROOKLYN, New York) -- 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-TV 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-TV that 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 and 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 more than 100 were taken to the emergency room from July 11-13, 2016, according to the National Institute of Health.

The National Institutes of Health 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 more than 100 people were hospitalized in April, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Three new cases of Ebola have been confirmed in a city of nearly 1.2 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the country's health ministry said.

A single case of Ebola virus disease was confirmed earlier this week in Wangata, one of the three health zones of Mbandaka, the capital of the northwestern Equateur province. It was the first time in the Democratic Republic of Congo's ongoing outbreak that a case had been detected in an urban health zone, with all other cases reported in remote, rural areas of Equateur province.

By Friday night, the number of confirmed Ebola cases in Mbandaka city had jumped to four. A new suspected case of Ebola was also reported there, according to the country's health ministry.

"We are entering a new phase of the Ebola outbreak that is now affecting three health zones, including an urban health zone," the Democratic Republic of Congo's Minister of Health Oly Ilunga Kalenga said in a statement in French.

Situated along the Congo River, Mbandaka is a densely populated transit hub at the crossroads of Equateur province, the health ministry said, raising fears that the Ebola virus will be easily passed on. Ebola spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids of infected people.

Downstream from Mbandaka is the country's capital, Kinshasa, which is home to roughly 10 million people. Just across the river from Kinshasa is Brazzaville, the capital of the neighboring Republic of the Congo.

As of Friday night, a total of 43 cases of hemorrhagic fever had been recorded in the Democratic Republic of Congo since the outbreak was announced on May 8. That number includes 17 confirmed cases of Ebola, 21 probable cases and five suspected cases. Health care workers have been among those infected, according to the health ministry.

There have been 25 deaths among these cases, including one person who died from a confirmed case of Ebola.

There are several types of hemorrhagic fever in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the health ministry noted; thus, not all suspected cases are necessarily Ebola.

The health ministry said it had received 5,400 doses of Ebola vaccine Wednesday morning. Thousands more were expected to arrive in the coming days.

The World Health Organization (WHO) convened an emergency committee meeting Friday to discuss the "very concerning" developments in the country's Ebola outbreak. The committee acknowledged the "particularly high" risk of the outbreak spreading across international borders, given the city of Mbandaka's proximity to the Congo River.

But the committee said the response by the Congolese government, WHO and partners has been "rapid and comprehensive," and it provides "strong reason to believe that the outbreak can be brought under control." The committee also advised against any international travel or trade restrictions on the Central African nation.

Accepting the committee's assessment of the situation, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus did not declare the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.

It's the ninth Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1976 when scientists first identified the deadly virus.

The latest Ebola outbreak comes amid an outburst of violence that has spread rapidly in the country's restive Kasai region. The violence was sparked by existing tensions between customary chiefs in Kasai-Central Province and the government in 2016, but the widening conflict has since pulled in militias, armed groups and security forces across an area the size of Germany.

The violence has forced families to flee their homes. About 3.8 million people in the Kasai region, including 2.3 million children, are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the United Nations.

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iStock/Thinkstock(ARLINGTON, Va.) -- A doctor who slipped an abortion pill into his pregnant girlfriend's tea was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Friday. However, he will serve only three years.

Brooke Fiske was dating Sikander Imran when the Arlington, Virginia, doctor slipped a drug into her tea he knew could cause her to have a miscarriage, according to ABC affiliate WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C.

Fiske was 17 weeks pregnant when she went to visit Imran to discuss raising the child, according to reports. That's when he slipped a pill into her tea, which caused her to go into premature labor hours later. She was rushed to the hospital, but the infant did not survive.

Imran was arrested in May 2017 and pleaded guilty in March to fetal homicide, court records show.

Despite Fiske's loss, she argued against a stiff penalty for Imran. The doctor, who lost his license following his arrest, faced a minimum of five years and maximum of 40 years in prison for felony, according to Virginia state law.

"To me, the length of time that he serves in prison isn't what's important," Fiske told WJLA-TV. "I think that it is really important that people know that if they are dealing with depression, before they do something, they should reach out and get help."

Imran's lawyers said he was dealing with mental health problems at the time, including panic attacks, and had threatened suicide, according to WJLA-TV.

Imran told the judge Friday he loved Fiske "more than anyone in the world" and prays for their unborn child every day.

"What matters is that people hear this story and realize that either they need to help themselves and they're going to reach out and get it before something awful happens, or they realize that whatever weight, whatever tragedy, whatever pain they're carrying, there is a way through it," Fiske said.

WJLA-TV reports Imran could also be deported to his native Pakistan after serving three years in prison.

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