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Sanjay Gupta MD

Common Virus Mutating into a Killer; Co-Workers Using Work Enhancing Drugs?; Stopping the Obesity Epidemic; Weight Loss Success Story

Aired January 12, 2008 - 08:30   ET


SANJAY GUPTA, CNN HOST: Good morning this is HOUSE CALL and I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. We've got a lot to cover this morning.
The CDC is warning doctors to be on the lookout for a common virus that's mutating into a killer. I'll tell you what symptoms to look for.

And athletes using performance-enhancing drugs, it's been all over the news, but what about your co-worker using work enhancing drugs?

Plus, I'm talking with the acting Surgeon General Dr. Steven Galson about his plans to stop the obesity epidemic in this country.

Finally, an amazing weight loss success story. Learn how one man lost more than 100 pounds, all on his own. Find out his secrets.

We start this morning, though, with a type of medical mystery, a virus that starts like a cold, but becomes a killer. The CDC had called it a 98-pound weakling of a virus. Not anymore. Now they want you and doctors to be on alert.


GUPTA (voice-over): Eighteen-year-old Joe Spencer's life has taken on a different rhythm. Last spring, he was a varsity jock in good health until...

JOE SPENCER, ALMOST DIED FROM ADENOVIRUS: Vomiting, chills, fevers. I just thought it was, you know, just a really bad flu and I'm going to get over it.

GUPTA: But it wasn't the flu. And before doctors could diagnosis it, it nearly killed him. Spencer found himself in intensive care, his lungs filled with water, his body starved for oxygen.

DAVID GILBERT, DR., PROVIDENCE PORTLAND MEDICAL CTR.: I thought we were at risk of losing the patient.

GUPTA: His diagnosis? Adenovirus, known mostly for causing colds and pink eye.

GILBERT: We were very surprised when we ran into this much more aggressive form of Adenovirus that took otherwise healthy people and put them into our intensive care unit with life threatening pneumonia.

GUPTA: Adenovirus 14 is a scrappy ubiquitous virus in our noses, on countertops, or pens. It spreads through contact and the air we breathe. Last year, it infected more than 1,000 Americans in a handful of states. At least 10 have died.

DEAN ERDMAN, DR., CDC: What we're asking physicians is to be alert, not be you know panicked, but be alert.

GUPTA: Sophisticated diagnostic tests can identify Adenovirus within hours, but doctors stress the key is recognizing its symptoms before they become life threatening.

GILBERT: If they develop a bronchitis with a high fever, and if they feel short of breath, they should get professional help sooner rather than later.

GUPTA: Spencer is still taking things slowly these days and doing a lot of hand washing to prevent a repeat of his illness.

SPENCER: People need to be aware that there's a killer out there.


GUPTA: Now the best protection against Adenovirus is basic. Hand washing, hand sanitizer and cleaning surfaces with bleach. And the CDC points out the bigger threat this winter season is still the flu, which kills approximately 36,000 people every year.

More news this week on autism. A new study out of California find autism rates actually continued to rise after mercury preservatives were removed from most vaccines. Authors of the study say this lends evidence thimerosal does not cause autism. But advocacy groups say it's too soon to dismiss the link.

And some amazing results from a very experimental Alzheimer's treatments. Researchers injected an Alzheimer's patience with the protein suppressing drug Enbrel in a way that penetrated a barrier in the brain. Then, within minutes, they say his behavior and cognitive abilities improved within minutes. UCLA and the University of Arkansas gave us video of the patient's and son after they'd seen him.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I see that he's clearer, he's more -- he seemed more organized in a way, he seems less coming apart in a sense. It just seems to me there's something that has put him back to where he was before.


GUPTA: Now while study authors are excited by this result, much more study is needed to see if these results remain consistent. This paper involved just one patient. Now the Mitchell Report has pointed a finger at steroid use in baseball and stirred up all sorts of controversy about the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sports. But what about drugs to enhance the mind rather than the body? Is there a difference?


GUPTA (voice-over): Scott Kinney isn't a famous athlete like Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens, but he does take a performance enhancing drug for the brain.

SCOTT KINNEY, GRAPHIC DESIGNER: I take a generic version of Adderall. It focuses all of my attention more or less on one specific task.

GUPTA: He's a graphic designer and a former radio DJ. And he's ones of tens of millions of Americans who take a pill to help them concentrate, or help their memory, or to just plain stay awake. Most, like Kinney, have a doctor's prescription. Adderall and Ritalin are approved to treat Attention Deficit Disorder, but scientists say they have the same affect on almost anyone.

MARTHA FARAH, UPENN. COGNITIVE NEUROSCIENCE: It does work for many, if not all normal, healthy people with normal attentional systems, they also enhance attention.

GUPTA: Take a look at these brain scans. Red indicates low levels of a certain brain chemical, a chemical you need in order to concentrate. And now the same brain after a dose of Ritalin. Some surveys found as many as one in four college students have taken prescription stimulants, with or without doctor's orders. That's risky. The drugs can cause cardiovascular problems and can lead to addiction. No one knows much about the long term effects.

FARAH: I call this phenomenon America's biggest uncontrolled experiment in psychopharmacology.

GUPTA: And it goes beyond the campus. This poker champ fessed up to using Ritalin to help his game. So we asked the world series of poker, the U.S. Chess Federation and the people who administer the SAT. None has any rule against brain enhancing drugs. So is it fair?

FARAH: If you're a patient in the emergency room and it's 4:00 in the morning, wouldn't you rather the doctor and the nurse taking care of you has access to this drug rather than not?

KINNEY: I absolutely need to have it for focus.

GUPTA: Scott Kinney says medication isn't for everyone. Does it help him work harder, better? He insists it does. Otherwise why take it?


GUPTA: Medical errors are a major concern for the medical community. And according to one national poll, 42 percent of respondents have been affected or known a friend affected by a medical error. So what do you do when something goes wrong? Whether it's a medical error or just a complication?

Elizabeth Cohen is here with this week's Empowered Patient.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: In this week's Empowered Patient, we have the story of a woman who got caught in the cracks of America's health care system. Christine, like so many other patients, suffered from complications of surgery. She lost thousands of dollars in medical bills and lost wages.

So what are you options when something goes wrong in the operating room or the doctor's office? Is suing always the answer? Or will a hospital or doctor help you sometimes without a lawsuit?

Find out what you can do if you suffer a health complication by going to

For Empowered Patient, I'm Elizabeth Cohen.


GUPTA: All right, Elizabeth, thanks. And every week, she brings you ways to empower yourself to get the most out of your health care. Stay where you are now. We're hoping you stick to your resolution when HOUSE CALL returns.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So many people come up to me and go, I need to lose 15 pounds. We've got the keys to making lasting changes to your health just ahead.


GUPTA: And later, your questions on everything from sweaty palms, to lasik eye surgery. That's coming up on HOUSE CALL.


GUPTA: Before the break, we asked in January, fitness club monthly enrollment numbers typically increase by A, 10 percent; B, 30 percent; C, 60 percent; or D, 80 percent? The answer, C, 60 percent.

Now 60 percent may sound great, but nearly half of participants drop out within the first six months of a new exercise program. Now we've got an expert coming up, who can tell you just how to keep any resolution you make.

But first, check this out. On the health page at, we asked you about your 2008 resolutions. And 40 percent of you voted losing weight as your health resolution this year. No surprise there.

We're helping you reach your goal starting with Judy Fortin on what it takes to keep exercising.


JUDY FORTIN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's one thing to say you're going to get in shape. But personal trainer Robert Dawson sees what really happens to those who base their New Year's resolution on exercise.

ROBERT DOTHARD, PERSONAL TRAINER: A lot of people have unrealistic goals. I have so many people come up to me and go, I need to lose 15 pounds. Well, great, let's talk about what you're going to do after that 15 pounds.

FORTIN: Dothard recommends having a secondary goal and coming up with a rewards system if you succeed. But he says the real secret to sticking with an exercise regimen is accountability. He suggests enlisting a spouse or friend.

DOTHARD: Have them walk with you and exercise with you, because the day you don't want to do it, I promise you, your spouse or your significant other will go, hey, let's go walking today. And that will help you move on.

FORTIN: Move on and hopefully keep moving.

Judy Fortin, CNN, Atlanta.


GUPTA: All right, thanks, Judy.

And approximately 100 million Americans made New Year's resolutions this year. But according to a recent Franklin Covey survey, only 23 percent will actually meet those goals. So how can you ensure your resolutions don't end up in the circular file?

Well, psychologist Marc Crawford offers these top tips to help you succeed.


MARK CRAWFORD, PSYCHOLOGIST: Number one, be specific. Take for for example the goal of losing weight. Saying I want to lose weight is way too general. You should say, I want to lose 10 pounds this year.

Have a set of steps that help you reach your goal. You want to add things like I'm going to exercise three times a week, I'm going to eat smaller portions, or I'm going to drink six to eight glasses of water a day. Those are the steps to get you to the goal.

Second, set a realistic goal. Very few people are going to use 50 pounds in a year, but losing five to 10 is a goal everyone can reach. Sometimes people do set resolutions -- they set themselves up by making resolutions they really don't think they're going to keep. I would encourage people don't make resolutions if you don't think you're going to keep them, because what that does is it sets you up for failure in the future.

The best thing to remember is the old adage, progress not perfection. You will make a mistake, you will have slips, it's part of it. Expect them, predict and plan for them. Use slips as a chance to figure out what you need to do differently. Have you revised course. What did you learn from that slip? But never use it as an excuse to give up your goal (INAUDIBLE) resolutions.

I would say set a goal for about two weeks, stop, see how you're doing. If you're doing well, pat yourself on the back. And if you're not, figure out why. So you can revise your plan. I think almost everyone has something that they would like to change or improve. And the first of the year gives everybody sort of a fresh start and a clean slate. And that's what everybody feels goods about.


GUPTA: Mark Crawford, thank you very much.

Now everybody knows obesity is an epidemic. And we know if current trends continue, today's children may not live as long as their parents. It's just stunning. I'm talking with the acting Surgeon General about what he plans to do about it. That's next on HOUSE CALL.

And here's the before picture of a man who lost more than 100 pounds on his own. Later, see what he looks like now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was big as a kid. You know what? The second half of my life, I don't want to be big, because I thought if I want to live the second half of my life, I need to do something.



GUPTA: Welcome back to HOUSE CALL. The Department of Health and Human Services has combined all of its forces and launched an initiative targeting the obesity epidemic in children. I sat down with the chair of the initiative earlier, acting Surgeon General Dr. Stephen Galson.


GUPTA: You're the chairman of a new initiative, which I understand harnesses a lot of the resources of the health departments. Tell me about that initiative. What's it designed to do?

STEVEN GALSON, DR., ACTING SURGEON GENERAL: There are a lot of activities going on from research at NIH, and you know the important role of that, to people like the Administration of Children and Families, which were the Headstart people, who are responsible for early childhood programs all around the country. They have an idea that they can look at all the playgrounds and particularly the playgrounds in the areas that are -- it's hardest for kids to get out and get exercise, that are hardest for kids to get out and for their parents to get fresh fruit and vegetables.

Look at those playgrounds, rebuild them, make them more appealing for people to go out and play in them. So there's a huge range of activities.

GUPTA: Taking it one step further even, should the government hold individuals responsible if they don't exercise, if they have poor BMI, if they make poor dietary choices? Is there -- should there be almost a nanny state when it comes to this important issue?

GALSON: I don't think a nanny state is necessary, of course. Everybody has responsibilities for this. Should teachers be responsible? Yes. Should parents be responsible? Yes. Everywhere children touch, there should be an adult who knows about childhood obesity, knows how to prevent it, knows what to do, how to educate kids, how to feed them. This is a national global responsibility for every single person who touches children in this country from doctors, to nurses, to teachers. Everyone has a role.

GUPTA: But let me go through some specific actions that are either in place or have been proposed and see what your thoughts are on them. A fat tax?

GALSON: I really don't know whether it would help. What I've heard about an example like that is some of the beverage industry is getting involved in trying to get some of these sweetened beverages out of school vending machines and substituting for them beverages that are more healthy. That is something that we think really works.

GUPTA: What -- you probably heard about the plan in Arkansas when former Governor Huckabee was the governor there about sending BMI report cards home with children.


GUPTA: So you'd actually send, just like you get grades...

GALSON: Right.

GUPTA: get a report card on your body mass index.


GUPTA: Good idea in your opinion?

GALSON: I think that is a good idea. I think anything that gives people more information, that gives them the tools to act, and they can decide what's the best way in their individual circumstances to move forward. Note every family's the same, not every part of the country is the same. Different groups have different needs. I think it's very important that we provide flexibility for people to do what's right for them. A report card educates. And I like that idea. GUPTA: We spent some time with your predecessor, Dr. Carmona to some extent. He, as you know, because it was very public, he testified about the concern of the political influence being placed on the Surgeon General's office.


GUPTA: In fact, he sort of referred to it as the shackle to some extent, as to what he could and could not say.


GUPTA: First of all, has that happened to you to any extent? And what did you think of that?

GALSON: I haven't felt shackled at all. This has not been an issue for me. I have had total buy in to say whatever I think is important. And I've talked about childhood obesity since the second that I walked in the door. And I feel like I can say whatever I think is needed for the American public to move forward on this. So no problem for me.

GUPTA: Dr. Stephen Galson of the United States Surgeon General. Thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

GALSON: Thank you very, very much. You, too. Keep up the good work.

GUPTA: Thank you, sir.


GUPTA: We've been reporting on the skyrocketing rates of overweight and obesity in this country and the serious health implications of those numbers. Coming up, a man who fought not to be a statistic. Meet Tim, the first of our fit nation weight loss successes. Find out how he lost more than 100 pounds and how he's keeping it off.


GUPTA: We're back with HOUSE CALL. You know, I've made a commitment to building a fit nations over the past two years. And this year will be no different, except we're telling a different type of story, yours. Thousands of our I-reporters from around the world have been sending us their weight loss success stories. And you'll be seeing those stories right here on HOUSE CALL.

We kick it off today with Tim. My hope is that his story shows losing weight, even 100 pounds is achievable.


TIM WINCHESKY: My name is Tim Winchesky and I've lost about 120 pounds. It was about two years ago, actually my 40th birthday was when I really started thinking I needed to do something. I was weighing in at about 335 pounds and high blood pressure.

GUPTA: Tim tried everything to lose weight. Fad diets, medications, group exercise, but the weight always came back.

WINCHESKY: When I see the before pictures of me, I think I look very sad. But that person's still here. I couldn't run a mile. I never ran. I wanted to be able to do that. I set that goal for myself is I wanted to run that whole mile. And then you see that bar (INAUDIBLE). You say like if I can run the mile, can I run a half marathon? Can I run a marathon?

Today, I've run five full marathons and 12 half marathons. You know, five years ago, who would have thought that I would every do that? Now it's exciting to me as I meet new people. And they don't look to see Tim and they don't look at Tim who's lost all the weight. They look at the person sitting in front of you now. And that's what I wanted to be remembered for.

GUPTA: Tim has reached his goal weight and is now working to build muscle mass. His new goal is to pass his experiences on to others.

WINCHESKY: I just encourage people to take that first step. I know it's hard. Find that program that is comfortable to you. They're out there.

GUPTA: But the biggest key to Tim's success he says was a good support network.

WINCHESKY: When you don't feel bad about asking for help.


GUPTA: And you can read more about Tim's journey at's/fitnation. Plus, if you have your own weight loss success story, I'd love to hear it. You can submit the I- report on the fit nation Web site. And you might just see it on an upcoming HOUSE CALL.

But first, problems with sweating to questions about vision surgery. I'm taking your questions. That's next on HOUSE CALL.


GUPTA: We're back with HOUSE CALL. And it's time for my favorite segment. It's called "Ask the Doctor." We dipped into our mail bag to find out the medical questions that are on your mind.

And here's a question that a viewer had for me. He says, "I suffer from a disease called hyperhidrosis and I would like to know if there is anything I can do to stop it?" For those who don't know, hyperhidrosis is a condition causing excessive sweating.

Now we all sweat. But people with this condition can experience uncomfortable consequences and are often more open to fungal and bacterial infections from the moisture. To answer the question, yes, there are things you can do. A good anti-perspirant can help block the sweat ducts. But for severe problems, botox injections, anti-coallergent (ph) drugs as well, have been proven to block the signals that trigger sweat glands. In rare cases, surgery to remove either the sweat glands or the nerves that carry messages to them are also options.

Now we have a question about lasik eye surgery. This comes from Herman in Wisconsin. He writes this, "I've been turned away from Lasik because my correction is too low. What is the least correction that can be performed with surgery?"

Well, great question, Herman. And when it comes to vision, the important thing to remember is there is no one size fits all solution. Surgeons use their best judgment to ensure each individual patient gets the most realistic outcome.

A couple things, though. People with generally healthy vision can go through the procedure and risk overcorrection, actually making their vision worse. Other risk factors like dry eyes, uneven cornea, and vision instability can also eliminate you from being a good candidate. Bottom line? Your doctor's going to assess your vision and your eyes and be the best judge.

Well, you can send in our questions at any time to me at CALL. And I might read them here any weekend. But this weekend, make sure to watch my special on Youssif. He's the badly burned Iraqi boy that viewers like you are helping to get the care he needs. His amazing story from terror to recovery airs Saturday and Sunday at 8:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. Eastern.

Thanks for watching. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Stay tuned now for more news on CNN.