Healthy Choices Blog

News and inspiration for healthy living in Northern California

Lezlie Sterling/
Abigail Fisk, 14, a patient of Greenhalgh’s for six years, is examined last week at Shriners Hospitals for Children Northern California. “I don’t even remember what my feet looked like before they were burned,” she said. “It was weird accepting that I was different and would never have normal feet again and never look the same.”
Lezlie Sterling/
Greenhalgh heads to an exam room through the Sacramento hospital’s busy “pod” on Aug. 20. He is doing industry-leading work in pediatric burns and regularly contributes research and prevention studies to the national burn community. “It’s one of the best jobs you can get, having the whole support for dealing with children in the best way you can,” he said.

For someone who spends his days around severe burns, Dr. David Greenhalgh is exceptionally cool.

Greenhalgh, chief of burns at Shriners Hospitals for Children Northern California, built the facility’s burn program almost singlehandedly at its start in 1997. Now, thanks to his cutting-edge medical research, it has grown into the busiest pediatric burn center on the West Coast and one of the nation’s leading facilities for this specialization.

In a peach-and-mint building nestled next to the UC Davis medical campus on Stockton Boulevard, Greenhalgh treats dozens of burned and scalded children from 13 Western states, plus Mexico and Canada. He also runs the adult burn program at the UC Davis Medical Center across X Street.

He says he has the best job in the world.

Sacramento is rolling out the mats on Labor Day for its third annual Free Day of Yoga at studios across the county.

More than 20 yoga studios will offer 40 free classes on Monday, ranging from more intensive “hot yoga” classes to relaxing meditative sessions. Free Yoga Day originated in Austin, Texas and was carried over to Sacramento in 2012 by traveling yogi Michelle Marlahan, of midtown’s “It’s All Yoga.”

Participants can find the free yoga schedule on the web, and are encouraged to bring loose clothing and an open mind. Yoga mats can be rented or borrowed at most studios.

For a schedule of yoga classes, visit

Liberia Ebola
Abbas Dulleh/AP Photo
Men, right, working for a humanitarian group, give water in small bags to West Point residents behind a gate at a holding area, as they wait for a second consignment of food from the Liberian Government to be handed out, at the West Point area, near the central city area of Monrovia, Liberia, Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. Two new cases of Ebola have emerged in Nigeria and, in an alarming development, they are outside the group of caregivers who treated an airline passenger who arrived with Ebola and died, Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said Friday.

Sacramento’s recent Ebola virus scare may have sparked some lasting compassion for those in deep peril in West Africa, where at least 1,200 to 1,300 people have died of the disease.

Or at least, that is the hope of Tim Wulah Jr., pastor of the Friends In Jesus International Church in south Sacramento, where a fundraising and medical supply drive will be held next Saturday, Aug. 30.

Wulah is asking residents to bring cash donations and items needed to help slow the spread of the deadly virus overseas. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chief Thomas Frieden said recently that bringing the virus under control will take months of diligent work caring for the ill and those with whom they’ve come in contact.

To that end, Wulah’s wish list includes surgical gloves, examination gloves, infrared thermometers, isolation gowns, vitamins, acetaminophen and other medical supplies. Sadly, the list of needed items also includes a grim reminder of the need to keep the deceased segregated from the living: body bags, in both child and adult sizes. The Ebola virus is spread by touching bodily fluids ranging from blood to sweat to tears, and more.

Ebola Source
Antwerp Institute of Tropical Medicine/AP Photo
FILE - This undated photo made available by the Antwerp Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium, shows the Ebola virus viewed through an electron microscope. As of mid-2014, Ebola has caused two dozen outbreaks in Africa since the virus first emerged in 1976.

Sacramento residents can breathe easier knowing that the nation’s top public health experts have ruled out an Ebola viral infection in a patient quarantined this week at Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center.

Blood samples from the patient, who’d just returned from a trip to West African nations hard hit by the virus, were found to be negative for strains of the notoriously deadly Ebola virus.

Nearly 70 such samples had been air-shipped to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for analysis in recent days from 27 states, as fear spread that U.S. international travel would introduce the virus to America. The vast majority are testing negative for the virus.

CDC officials notified the California Department of Public Health and Kaiser Permanente officials late Thursday that the unidentified patient held in isolation at the south Sacramento hospital was not a carrier of the deadly Ebola virus.

Ebola Source
Antwerp Institute of Tropical Medicine/AP Photo
FILE - This undated photo made available by the Antwerp Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium, shows the Ebola virus viewed through an electron microscope. As of mid-2014, Ebola has caused two dozen outbreaks in Africa since the virus first emerged in 1976.

With the West African outbreak of Ebola escalating, state public health officials said Wednesday they were not surprised that the deadly virus may have reached Sacramento in the case of a patient who recently returned from a trip to one of the stricken nations.

The patient, held in isolation at Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center, is considered at risk – albeit at “low risk” – of having the disease and possibly carrying it back to the capital region, state officials said.

California’s potential “Patient Zero” is isolated in a specially equipped room that’s required in all hospitals statewide to help curb the spread of serious communicable diseases. The hospital’s staff members are taking precautions to ensure their safety, wearing protective clothing, gloves, shoes and face masks.

Blood drawn from the patient was shipped by air Tuesday to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and results are expected in three days, said Gil Chavez, a senior epidemiologist at the California Department of Public Health.

Jose Luis Villegas/
Christiana Hunter, center, asks Liberian Gender Minister Julia Duncan Cassellif checkpoints have been put into place to check people coming and going from the areas infected with the Ebola crisis during a meeting at the Friends in Jesus congregation in Sacramento on Wednesday night, August 13, 2014.
José Luis Villegas/
Members of the Friends in Jesus International Church in Sacramento bow their heads in prayer following a meeting Wednesday on the Ebola crisis. The congregation largely consists of Liberian immigrants.

What was intended as a public health discussion erupted into emotional mayhem this week as local Liberians struggled to grasp why their loved ones back home are continuing to die.

Desperate for reliable information about the Ebola virus that has killed hundreds in their native country as well as in bordering Guinea and Sierra Leone, members of Sacramento’s Liberian community gathered Wednesday evening at the Friends in Jesus International Church to hear from Julia Duncan-Cassell, the minister of gender and development for Liberia and a member of the recently formed National Task Force on Ebola.

The official was stateside for the U.S.-Africa summit when the Rev. Tim Wulah Jr. invited her to speak about the virus. Wulah has been building the mostly Liberian church community on Elder Creek Road since 2001, when refugees escaping a long and violent civil war began pouring in.

It’s from the ashes of that war that Liberia and its neighbors are attempting to battle what officials have declared the worst Ebola outbreak in history. The already-weak health infrastructure, a shortage of medical supplies and general confusion about the disease are making it a difficult battle to wage, said Duncan-Cassell.

José Luis Villegas/
UC Davis researcher Dr. Jonna Mazet studies interactions between people, animals and the environment in regard to infectious diseases.
Jose Luis Villegas/
UC Davis veterinary research associate Brett Smith spins DNA from Rwandan bats at the UC Davis Veterinary school’s testing for the viral family of animals in West Africa. Ebola expert Dr. Jonna Mazet from UC Davis studies the interactions between people, animals and the environment in regard to the spreading of infectious diseases.

With the worst Ebola outbreak in history killing hundreds in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, one UC Davis epidemiologist is attempting to prevent similar crises from happening around the world by anticipating them before they take hold.

Since 2009, Dr. Jonna Mazet and her PREDICT project team have been mapping hot spots for zoonotic diseases – those that can be passed between animals and humans – with pandemic potential and bracing those areas for impact. Her research had identified west Africa as a high-risk area for Ebola before the outbreak started based on its human population density, its biodiversity, and the dangerous ways in which humans and wildlife were coming together, such as through the hunting and handling of monkeys, bats and other “bush meat.”

Ebola is believed to have originated in fruit bats, and jumped to a 2-year-old boy in Guinea last December. The current strain of the virus, Ebola Zaire, first appeared in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976 and has caused minor outbreaks in communities throughout Africa since then – but never in the region currently affected or to this degree. Health officials in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone did not recognize the virus until March, Mazet said, at which point the death toll was already climbing.

Ebola can be transmitted through sweat, blood, saliva, semen and other bodily fluids. Once in the human body, the virus incubates for two to 21 days before causing fever, vomiting, diarrhea and eventually organ failure, followed by internal and external bleeding. It is believed to be contagious only after symptoms begin.

A national lung cancer trial launched earlier this summer with the help of a UC Davis oncologist has the potential to dramatically affect the way cancer drugs will be developed in the future.

The trial, called Lung-MAP, puts a cancer-fighting approach into action that uses genomic profiling. This involves testing a patient’s tumors for “bio markers,” or genetic identifiers, that can help physicians determine which genetically targeted drugs will work for them.

The current course of treatment for lung cancer presents patients a range of therapies, some toxic, that are not targeted for that individual’s cancer. Elizabeth Lacasia, a stage 4 lung cancer patient and active support group participant at the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation in the Bay Area, called it “throwing spaghetti on the wall to see if something sticks.”

When Lacasia was diagnosed in 2006, her oncologist did not consider genomic profiling a reliable option because of its newness. After six tough and not-so-successful rounds of chemotherapy, Lacasia eventually moved to the care of Dr. David Gandara, director of the UC Davis Thoracic Oncology Program and a lead researcher on the new Lung-MAP trial. He used genomic profiling to find a combination of drugs that stabilized Lacasia’s cancer and prevented new growth for more than four years.

GOO2PAQH6.3Senior Photojournalist
Renée C. Byer/
Three members of the Sacramento Walking Sticks club, from left, Susan Barstis, Priscilla Fife and Jennifer Stanley, make their way along Seventh Avenue back to Vic’s Ice Cream, where they began a 6-mile walk on Thursday. The halfway point of the round trip was Gunther’s Ice Cream.
GDP2PAQHT.3Senior Photojournalist
Renée C. Byer/
Jody Kolar tagged along on a Sacramento Walking Sticks club walk that included a view of this art decorated home between 3rd and 4th avenue along 22nd Street on Thursday Aug. 7, 2014 in Sacramento, Calif.

There’s room for two iconic ice cream parlors in this town. And no good reason not to go to both, if you ask the members of the Sacramento Walking Sticks.

A group of about 100 avid walkers and ice cream eaters took to the streets on Wednesday and Thursday for the annual Ice Cream Walk with the club, one of Sacramento’s largest recreational walking groups.

With visors on heads and water bottles in hand, club members and friends walked from Vic’s Ice Cream in Land Park to Gunther’s Ice Cream in Curtis Park and back – a total of 6.2 miles – with a few snack breaks in between.

Priscilla Fife, a six-year member of the Sticks who recently moved to Alameda County but returned for the event, set off from Vic’s at 9 a.m. Thursday on the club’s mapped route, which was designed to intercept points of interest in two of Sacramento’s more historic neighborhoods.

Lezlie Sterling/
West Nile virus, first detected in birds in Sacramento County a decade ago, is transmitted to humans and animals through a mosquito bite. Bee file photo, 2013.

The state’s first death from West Nile virus in 2014 occurred last month in Sacramento County.

The 74-year-old woman who succumbed to the disease had a chronic underlying illness and had been hospitalized, county health officials said. She died July 26.

Dr. Olivia Kasirye, health officer for Sacramento County, said there are seven additional cases under investigation. These people may currently have West Nile virus but their diagnoses are not confirmed. The health department is gathering information on those individuals.

West Nile virus, first detected in birds in Sacramento County a decade ago, is transmitted to humans and animals through a mosquito bite. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds.


Don Hopkins, a former Davis police officer and professional ballroom dancer, is having some trouble staying on his feet.

Hopkins, 67, is still physically drained from an early May trip to Mercy Hospital at Folsom, where doctors pumped him with pneumonia antibiotics for more than a week before accurately diagnosing his Valley fever.

As Hopkins’ temperature soared and he began to hallucinate, his wife, Lizette, insisted the doctors test for the disease, which is historically more prevalent in the southern Central Valley. Though Hopkins’ test results would surprise many in the Sacramento region, experts say the fever is not constrained to the south state and can be carried to other regions via travelers and drought conditions.

“When doctors see somebody with what they think is pneumonia, they immediately give them antibiotic,” said Hopkins, who lives in the El Dorado County foothills. “Often the patient gets worse and the doctors don’t think about Valley fever. It can basically disable a person for the rest of their life.”

The California State Board of Pharmacy steered away Thursday from a decision on whether pharmacies should be required to translate prescription drug labels for limited-English speakers and passing the issue to another committee for further discussion.

Several speakers at Thursday’s meeting urged the board to require printed translated labels on prescription bottles, arguing that the verbal interpretation does not go far enough for patients with limited English. Others, including representatives from CVS Caremark Corporation and the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, voiced their reluctance due to space constraints on the lables and liability issues.

Almost everyone agreed that a change was necessary, noting a widespread lack of adherance to prescription instructions and a high rate of adverse medical reactions among the state’s more vulnerable populations, including limited-English speakers. Linda Neuhauser, clinical professor of Community Health and Human Development at UC Berkeley, urged California to set an example for the rest of the country on the translation issue.

“We’re seeing the tip of the iceberg,” she said. “This is inevitable. It has to be done right. But it’s going to happen.”

About Healthy Choices

Cynthia CraftCynthia H. Craft began her reporting and editing career in Columbus, Ohio, after graduating from Ohio State University. She worked at a Dallas, Texas, newspaper as an editor, and then at the Los Angeles Times, as an editor and Capitol Bureau correspondent. After working as editor in chief at the California Journal, Craft went to Lima, Peru, for three years as a visiting professor of journalism at Peruana Universidad de Ciencias Aplicadas. She was a fellow in 2012 at the National Library for Medicine in Washington, D.C. at the National Institute for Health. She's currently The Sacramento Bee's senior writer on health, a position made possible by a grant from The California Endowment.

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Phone: (916) 321-1270
On Twitter: @cynthiahcraft.

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Note: The Healthy Choices blog switched blog platforms in August 2013. All posts after the switch are found here. Older posts are available using the list below.

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