Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 22, 2010

Whooping Cough Cases Up in Macon County, Statewide

There has been a sharp increase in the number of whooping cough cases in Illinois this year.

The majority of them are in and around Chicago, but Macon County's Health Department currently has five confirmed cases and four probable ones. Director of Nursing Debby Durbin said the greatest concern is that babies will contract pertussis from adults, who may not show as violent a cough as young people.

"Our concern is with Christmas coming and people having these coughs -with an adult, they may not be all that bad," Durbin said. "But then if they go around a new baby and transmit it, that's very, very dangerous."

Infants cannot receive a shot for the disease until they are two months old, and Brandon Meline with Champaign-Urbana's Public Health Department says lots of viruses will cause a cough, so pertussis is hard to detect in adults. He said some shots have been updated since 2005, so lots of adults likely have not received it.

"New pertussis vaccines that have been out on the market for several years now that are included in the tenanus that we typically get every ten years - there's a tetanus vaccine with the pertussis in it for adults to help prevent that transmission to the little ones," Meline said. "The majority of cases that you see in infants and kids are ususally passed on from a parent or a day care provider."

Meline said contracting whooping cough likely has more to do with many people staying indoors than the conditions outside, but he said the disease is passed on more easily in the winter. An Illinois public health spokeswoman said statewide, there have been 925 cases of pertussis in 2010, compared to about 650 last year. In California last year, 10 children died from the illness.

Outside Macon County, there are no reported cases currently in east central Illinois. Champaign County has had 11 cases this year, McLean County has had 11 cases, while Vermilion County has reported six of them.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 21, 2010

Jimmy John’s Restaurants Stop Serving Alfalfa Sprouts Following Salmonella Outbreak

Jimmy John's restaurants in Illinois are pulling a key ingredient from their sandwiches.

The company announced Tuesday that it will temporarily discontinue alfalfa sprouts, which are linked to dozens of salmonella outbreaks in nine counties, including Champaign, McLean, and Cook.

"As a good faith and good will gesture, I am asking Illinois stores to pull sprouts until the state can give us some better direction," restaurant owner Jimmy John said in a statement.

The company said its main supplier of sprouts was tested for salmonella last week, and came up negative. There have been no reported cases in recent weeks of people in Illinois becoming ill after eating the sprouts, but the state's Public Health Department is investigating the restaurant's food suppliers and producers. The reported incidents took place between November and early December.

People who eat alfalfa sprouts and become ill with diarrhea and a fever should contact a physician. Illness usually wears off after three to seven days.

Categories: Health
Tags: health

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 20, 2010

State Health Department Continues Investigation of Salmonella Outbreak

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is investigating nearly four dozen cases in which people became sick with salmonella after eating at Jimmy John's restaurants in nine counties, including Champaign, McLean, and Cook.

The reported incidents took place between November and early December. No new cases of salmonella have been reported in the last couple of weeks, according to the IDPH. However, the agency is continuing to investigate the outbreak.

"Right now the Department of Public Health is investigating the producers and suppliers of alfalfa to determine where the potential beginning of this problem is," said Tom Green, a spokesperson with the health department. "While the investigation is ongoing, there's no reason for people to stop going to Jimmy John's because of something that happened in November and early December."

Green said not all of Jimmy John's restaurants get their sprouts from the same vendor. A company spokesperson said it closely monitors its food suppliers, and will remove the sprouts from its sandwiches if there is a health warning.

People who eat alfalfa sprouts and become ill with diarrhea and a fever should contact a physician, said Green. Illness usually wears off after three to seven days.

Categories: Business, Health

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 19, 2010

Federal Grant Seeks to End Childhood Hunger in Five Years

A new $5.5 million federal grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture is trying to tackle childhood hunger.

The program will solicit research projects from across the country to study reasons people go hungry, and the effectiveness of food assistance programs.

Craig Gundersen, a consumer economics professor with the University of Illinois, will work with the University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research to identify studies eligible for funding. Gundersen said he hopes this program will unlock some of the mysteries surrounding childhood hunger.

"We don't understand why some children are suffering from hunger and others are not," he said. "There really hasn't been any research on that. We're also trying to find out what causes all of a sudden a child to be in a household not suffering from hunger. Then all of a sudden, he or she is a household where they do suffer from hunger."

According to U.S. Census Data, within a four year period, the number of households in Illinois on food stamps went up by more than a hundred thousand. Around 60-percent of those households had children under the age of 18.

Local efforts to address childhood hunger with groups like the Eastern Illinois Food Bank have been successful, according to Gundersen. In 2009, the USDA devoted more than $60 billion to fight childhood hunger. This new grant seeks to help put an end to it by 2015, a deadline set by the Obama administration. However, Gundersen raised doubt over whether that is a realistic timetable.

The deadline to submit research proposals for the grant program is March 10.

Categories: Education, Health

AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 15, 2010

George Ryan’s Wife Has Months to Live, According to Doctors

Doctors say the former first lady of Illinois, Lura Lynn Ryan has terminal lung cancer with only three to six months to live.

The details of Mrs. Ryan's health were revealed in a letter filed in federal court this afternoon. Former Governor George Ryan is appealing parts of his conviction and asking the court to let him out of prison on bail while his appeal is considered so that he can be with his ailing wife.

According to a letter written by the medical director of Rush Riverside Cancer Institute in Kankakee, Mrs. Ryan had a CT scan on Monday which showed a mass in the left lower lung that measured up to 7 centimeters in diameter. A scan on Tuesday confirmed the growth.

Doctors say lesions in the liver and bones suggest an aggressive cancer and given her age and condition. They say Ryan could have as little as three months if their preliminary diagnosis is correct.

Prosecutors have argued against releasing Governor Ryan saying it is the sad fact that all prisoners are separated from their families during trying times.

(Photo courtesy of the Kankakee Public Library)


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 14, 2010

Carle Foundation Hospital Prepares for New Addition

The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board has given Carle Foundation Hospital the green light to build a nine-story patient bed tower that will house the hospital's Heart and Vascular institute.

The $200 million project has been on hold for more than a year because of the sluggish economy, but is now moving forward through the financial backing of bonds and private donations.

Included in the new tower will be work spaces for cardiovascular, neuroscience, and intensive care services to better address emergent, acute, and chronic conditions. The new tower will also include 136 single patient rooms that will replace inadequate rooms from older buildings on the hospital campus that date back to the 1960s and 1970s.

"There is dedicated family space in each of those rooms, and lots and lots of natural light coming in through," said Stephanie Beever, the hospital's vice president of Business Development. "There's lots of glass in this building that our research has shown will actually help patients improve, get better quicker, and hopefully get home quicker."

Revised construction costs for the patient bed tower are $17 million less than what was originally projected a couple of years ago. Officials from Carle estimate that the tower will have a $100 million impact on the local economy.

Up to 250 workers will be hired to work on the constrution of the new tower. ManorCare nursing home in Urbana will be torn down in January to make room for the new patient tower with construction set to begin in March. The project is scheduled to completed in June 2013. It will be located on Coler Street between Park and Church Streets.

Categories: Economics, Health
Tags: economy, health

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 03, 2010

Mobile Food Pantries Making Stops in Champaign County

Free mobile food pantries will be dispatched throughout Champaign County starting this weekend.

The United Way is teaming up with several labor groups to distribute nearly 40,000 pounds of food from the Eastern Illinois Food Bank to low-income families in Rantoul, Mahomet, Champaign and Urbana during the first three Saturdays of the month.

According to U.S. Census Bureau, more than 18 percent of people in Champaign County were living in poverty in 2008, which during that year was about six percent higher than the state's overall poverty level. Eric Westlund, the AFL-CIO Community Services Liason, said the poverty level in Champaign County has not changed substantially, but he said there is still a significant need to feed hungry families.

"You can't really tell by looking at somebody if they're in poverty or not," he said. "It's just not something that's visible, but believe me there's just so many people out there that can use a little help, especially at this time of the year."

Each mobile pantry can feed up to 150 families. Westlund said many children in low-income families are not getting enough protein, which is why the pantry will offer a lot of canned fruits and vegetables.

"We're looking to feed these kids so that they are healthy," he said. "There's a little peanut butter in there, and they'll get some cookies, but there will be fresh produce and other things to offset that too."

The food will be distributed Saturday at the First United Methodist Church, 200 S. Century Blvd., Rantoul at 10 a.m. and at the Mahomet United Methodist Church, 1302 E. South Mahomet Road at 12:30 p.m. On Dec. 11, the pantry will distribute goods at Stratton Elementary School, 902 N. Randolph St., C. Distribution at 10 a.m. On Dec. 18, the final pantry will be set up at Prairie Elementary School, 2102 E. Washington St., U. Distribution at 10 a.m.

Categories: Economics, Health
Tags: economy, health

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 30, 2010

Medical Marijuana Bill Gets Shot Down

An effort to allow medical use of marijuana fell short by a handful of votes in the Illinois House. Opponents argued it was less about health care and more about legalizing pot.

The tally was a setback for medical patients suffering from glaucoma, cancer and other diseases who say smoking marijuana helps ease pain and improve their quality of life. Former talk show host Montel Williams was among those who came to the capitol to lobby for the measure. Williams has multiple sclerosis and admitted he uses marijuana to deal with his symptoms.

"For me, it helps to lessen the neuropathic pain," Williams said. "It also helps me, no ifs, ands, or buts, with spasticity. I suffer from MS. I have leg tremors and have spasticity at night. This completely squashes that."

The House sponsor, Lou Lang (D-Skokie) said the medical contributions of the drug are a compelling argument to legalize it.

"How do you turn down people who are sick," Lang said. "People who are in pain, people who have not had the opportunity to have a quality of life without this health care product. And make no mistake my friends. This is not a bill about drugs. This is a bill about health care."

But critics say more testing should be done to determine if marijuana has benefits. Fifteen other states allow medical marijuana use.

Illinois' plan would have patients get a doctor's note that would then be submitted to the state department of public health. The agency would regulate who can buy from licensed dealers.

But law enforcement was opposed to the measure, and so were lawmakers like State Rep. Ron Stephens (R- Greenville), who is a licensed pharmacist.

"This is about possession of marijuana," Stephens said. "That's all it's about. It's not about medical treatment."

Stephens said more research is needed to determine any potential benefits marijuana might have. While the Illinois plan was defeated, the same proposal was kept alive through a legislative maneuver and could be called for another vote.

Categories: Health, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 24, 2010

Healthcare Advocacy Group Assesses Financial Commission’s Proposals

A federal commission made up of members of Congress and former lawmakers is trying to reduce the nation's federal deficit by $4 trillion dollars by 2020 with changes to government programs, including Medicare and Social Security services.

Based in Washington, DC, the 18-member National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform is led by former senator Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and former Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles. Both leaders are backing a plan to make cuts to Medicare funding that would limit federal spending on Medicare recipients to one percent above the economy's gross domestic product. Anne Gargano Ahmed, who is with Champaign County Health Care Consumers, said under that plan, the cost for care would then be pushed onto Medicare beneficiaries with higher premiums.

"Medicare beneficiaries would then have to choose to pay higher premiums for traditional Medicare, or buying a private plan from a Medicare exchange of private insurance companies that would offer a plan as an alternative to Medicare," Ahmed explained. "These plans might have lower premiums, but they'd probably offer less coverage like many private insurance plans do now."

Illinois has two legislatures sitting on the panel: Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). The healthcare advocacy group backs a proposal by Schakowsky calling for the creation of a Medicare-administered drug plan to compete with private plans. She also wants Medicare to use its bargaining power to negotiate for lower drug prices, a move that the Congressional Budget Office estimates will save the country $14 billion by 2015.

The financial commission is also considering a plan to increase the retirement age for full Social Security benefits to 69 by 2075. According to the non-partisan group Social Security Works, boosting the retirement age by that amount would lead to a 21-percent cut in benefits from the current retirement age of 66.

Claudia Lennhoff, executive director of Champaign County Health Care Consumers, said trimming any part of social security is the last thing the federal government should do to help cut the deficit. Lennhoff said because social security is supported by payroll deductions and not federal dollars, it does not add to the deficit.

"Social security does not contribute to the budget deficit," Lennhoff said. "So it's like trying to find an answer that wasn't part of the problem, and at great consequence to the American people, at great harm to the American people. It's simply not fair."

However, Lennhoff admitted that one area her group agrees with the commission's leaders on is raising the wage cap on the amount of money going to support Social Security. The cap is currently set at $106,800.00, and Lennhoff said increasing it would require people making more than that amount to pay more to support social security benefits.

The commission has until December 1st to finalize and vote on a plan. It must capture 14 of 18 votes among its members to adopt a budget recommendation, and send it onto Congress for consideration.

Categories: Economics, Health
Tags: economy, health

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 18, 2010

U of I Board of Trustees Approves Restructuring Plan

The University of Illinois' Board of Trustees unanimously approved changes to the U of I's administrative structure during its Thursday meeting in Chicago.

The Board of Trustees gave the university the green light to hire a new vice president who will oversee the health science departments at the Chicago and Urbana campuses as well as at training clinics in Chicago, Urbana, Rockford, and Peoria.

The board also voted to expand the role of the vice president for technology and economic development to include a $716 million research portfolio that includes research on the three campuses. The office will streamline research-related policies and processes, which according to the university will eliminate redundancies.

The third proposal that the board approved was a measure that adds the title of vice president to each of the campus chancellors, and specifies that the president of the university will be known as the president of each campus.

University spokesman Tom Hardy said the administrative changes will help the U of I cut costs by allowing University President Michael Hogan to "establish clear lines of authority to begin to consolidate operations."

"You need leadership at the top to drive that process," Hogan said. "Without it, reform doesn't get done or doesn't get done effectively."

Hogan added that a strong administration will ensure the three campuses work together, and advance research opportunities while maintaining distinctive qualities that make each campus unique.

The changes come more than two weeks after the Urbana Faculty Senate rejected the restructuring plan, citing the cost of hiring an additional vice president as one area of concern.

Joyce Tolliver, who chairs the senate's Executive Committee, said the faculty senate is still concerned about some of the administrative changes, but she said she is encouraged that before each meeting, the Board of Trustees will start holding conference calls with chairs of different faculty committees on each campus. This is a move that she said will create more transparency between the Board of Trustees and the rest of the U of I community.

"It's not that there's anything that we asked about before that we're not concerned about now," Tolliver said. "All the questions are still there, but what I am confident about is that they will be answered going forward."

The Board of Trustees targeted a 2012 goal of reducing the university's administrative costs by five-to-ten percent.

Some of the recommendations for consolidating 'back-office' administrative functions throughout the University were outlined in a June report by the Administrative Review and Restructuring (ARR) working group, which made 43 recommendations for potentially $58 million in cost savings.

Categories: Economics, Education, Health

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