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UNC Infectious Disease Expert: AIDS Lessons Should Inform Ebola Strategies

A UNC expert on global health and infectious diseases said Wednesday that the lessons learned from the AIDS outbreak during the `80s should guide today’s medical community when dealing with West Africa’s Ebola crisis.

“We ought to really learn a lesson from HIV,” said Dr. Myron Cohen, Chief of Infectious Diseases and Vice Chancellor for Global Health at the University of North Carolina. “We’re always going to have new microorganisms causing problems. We need to know the rules.”

Cohen sat down Wednesday afternoon with Drs. Adam Goldstein and Christy Page at the UNC Family Medicine auditorium for an episode of “Your Health,” a syndicated radio program presented by UNC Family Medicine and WCHL.

The infectious diseases expert answered questions about the spread of HIV/AIDS in the 1980s, and the recent outbreak of Ebola.

Cohen reminded the studio audience, many of whom were medical students, that there was a time when researchers and disease specialists didn’t even know that AIDS was caused by a virus.

Back then, he said, much of the public discussion about AIDS was based on fear, rather then focusing on what he calls “the rules” of discussing a major disease outbreak. A similar situation is happening today, he said, with Ebola.

The rules are: What caused the disease? How is it transmitted? And what are the strategies to prevent transmission?

Cohen also reminded the audience that AIDS was once a death sentence, and now, a short time later, it is not.

“So we go in a very short window of time – ’85, a brand-new bug that’s just discovered; 2015, a person detected with HIV a treated effectively, early in disease, lives a normal life span.”

Scientists know that Ebola is transmitted by exposure to bodily fluids. Cohen said they’re trying to learn more about windows of contagion, and inanimate transmissions, caused by secretions that have been lying around on fabrics and other surfaces.

He said we can expect see the fastest deployment of prevention and treatment strategies in the history of the human species. Animal tests for drug treatments look promising, he added.

Still, the medical community is bracing for this to go on for a very long time.

Ebola is now in the exponential-spread phase. The CDC estimated 1.4 million cases in West Africa, perhaps over the next few months.

“There will be cases in Europe and the United States,” said Cohen, “and they’ll be constrained.”

Like most issues in the U.S. these days, Ebola has become politicized. Goldstein asked Cohen if the idea, proposed by some politicians, to prevent travel from West Africa has any merit.

“That’s only going to work of, then, travel from West Africa to Europe is constrained,” said Cohen. “If you put a finger in the dike of airlines going one place, then people will go another place and then show up, and it’ll be less prepared.”

You can hear the entire interview on “Your Health” with Drs. Adam Goldstein and Christie Page. The episode airs Saturday at 9 a.m.; Sunday at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.; and at 6 p.m. Monday on WCHL, 97.9 FM.

http://chapelboro.com/news/health/unc-infectious-disease-expert-aids-lessons-inform-ebola-strategies/

Post Health Care Deadline, Officials Say More Than 7 Million Enrolled

As the March 31st deadline for Americans to enroll in health care has come and gone, early estimates indicate that more than 7 million Americans successfully signed up for coverage, despite problems and long wait times.

Sherry Hay, UNC Family Medicine Director of Community Health Initiatives, says her department and community partners have been working to help locals sign up for health care since open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act began on October 1 of last year.

On Monday, Hay says UNC Family Medicine was still taking calls and answering people’s questions about enrolling for health care.

“Through the month of March, we tried to do a variety of events— some more global type of community events with other partners such as UNC General Internal Medicine and others in the community, to scheduling patients around their medical appointments here at family medicine to see a certified application counselor,” Hay says.

The last-minute rush before Monday’s midnight deadline was a headache for some, as people reported call wait times of more than two hours and constant glitches with the HealthCare.gov website. Such problems have plagued the system since its debut.

“During these tight times when we are all dependent on the system, it is really frustrating, and people were frustrated by that when it didn’t operate as it should,” Hay says.

Still, federal officials estimated that about 2 million Americans were able to successfully enroll in the two weeks leading up to the deadline.

According to data released in February, Hay says it was estimated that more than 200,000 North Carolinians had enrolled through the federal health care exchanges.

In 2013, 1.5 million people in North Carolina were uninsured.

“It has been an interesting change in healthcare, one of the biggest in decades. There was no state agency that was necessarily deemed the agency to be responsible for the change,” Hay says.

All people, with few exceptions, are required to have health insurance. People who are already covered by health insurance through a private provider are not required to change coverage.

Citizens who can afford health insurance but did not purchase it by the March 31 deadline will be fined $95.

However, the enrollment period has been extended for those who began the application but were unable to finish.

“The Obama Administration did release that if someone had started the process by midnight [on March 31st], they will have until April 15th to complete the application process,” she says.

Now that this open enrollment period has ended, Hay says UNC Family Medicine and its partners will regroup, assess what went well and what didn’t in helping to get people signed up and focus on the next open enrollment, which begins in November and runs through February of 2015.

http://chapelboro.com/news/national/post-health-care-deadline-officials-say-7-million-enrolled/

UNC Family Medicine Hosting “Affordable Care Act Enroll-a-Thon” Saturday

CHAPEL HILL – UNC Family Medicine is hosting an Affordable Care Act Enroll-a-Thon this Saturday, January 25, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Sherry Hay, UNC Family Medicine Director of Community Health Initiatives, said it will be a chance to get all of your questions answered about ObamaCare and enrolling in the Health Insurance Marketplace.

“If you are interested in a walk-in appointment, we do have a couple of those left, so we would love to see you there. If we are not able to accommodate you, there is an opportunity for you to get assistance in the state by calling and scheduling an appointment at 1-855-733-3711,” she said.

Hay said you schedule any appointment at anytime through that state-wide number.

The event is in partnership with UNC General Internal Medicine, Planned Parenthood, Student Health Action Coalition, Piedmont Health Services, UNC Law, Orange County Division on Aging, and Legal Aid.

The Enroll-a-Thon will take place at the Family Medicine Center at 590 Manning Drive—at the corner of 15/501 and Manning Drive.

Hay joined Ron Stutts on the WCHL Friday Morning News to talk about the event.

**Listen to the full interview**

http://chapelboro.com/news/health/unc-family-medicine-hosting-affordable-care-act-enroll-thon-saturday/

This Weekend In OC: Arts! Concerts! Tax Relief?

With tax season officially upon us, Orange County is once again offering the RSVP-VITA tax preparation service for low- to middle-income residents in need of assistance this year.

“VITA” is short for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance. It’s a free program sponsored by the IRS. It begins in February in Orange and Chatham Counties.

You can find out if you’re eligible and make appointments either online or by phone. Visit OrangeCountyNC.gov/aging/VITA.asp, or to make an appointment by phone, call:

Orange County: 919.245.4242 (English)
Orange County:  919.245.2010 (Spanish)
Compass Center for Women and Families: 919.968.4610 (English only)
Chatham County: 919.542.4512 (Angel Dennison)
Chatham County: 919.742.1448 (Spanish)

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From now through March, the Hillsborough Arts Council is offering walking tours of the town’s sculptures. The guided tour is called “Take A Closer Look”; it will focus on four of the six sculptures that have been on display since last April.

Tours begin at the Hillsborough Arts Council Gallery on N. Churton Street, at 1:00 p.m. every Friday and Saturday. The tours are free (though donations are accepted), and they last one to one and a half hours.

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This weekend brings the third annual “Mixed Concrete” art auction to Chapel Hill, with proceeds to benefit Habitat for Humanity. Featuring local artists working with a variety of materials, the show runs from Friday to Sunday, January 24-26, at TRU Deli + Wine Bar on the corner of Rosemary and Henderson. There will be an opening reception on Friday at 7:00 p.m.

To see some of the art online or to donate to the cause, visit MixedConcrete.org.

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If you’re still unsure about the new federal Health Insurance Marketplace, UNC Family Medicine is holding a “Health Insurance Enroll-A-Thon” on Saturday, January 25, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Officials will be on hand to answer questions and help you enroll.

The event will take place in the UNC Family Medicine Center at 590 Manning Drive. For more information or to schedule an appointment, visit UNCFamilyMedicine.org.

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The Orange County main library in Hillsborough is hosting an exhibition of folk art from January 24-March 24. It’s called “Road Trip: Folk Art from Mike’s Art Truck”—and it’s comprised of 20 pieces all created by self-taught artists.

Curators Greg and Karen Mack of Hillsborough will be on hand for a reception at the library on Saturday, February 1, from 2-5 p.m.

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Orange County’s Department on Aging and the Friends of the Seymour Center are inviting you to attend a Celebration Concert honoring the memory of Pearl Seymour on Saturday, January 25.

The concert will take place at 3:00 p.m. at the Seymour Center on Homestead Road; admission is free. Immediately following the concert, there will be a reception and a silent auction, with proceeds going to benefit the Department on Aging and the Friends of the Seymour Center.

For more information about the concert, visit FriendsSeymourCenter.org.

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Saturday, January 25, you’re invited to a free performance of actor Mike Wiley’s “Dar He: The Story of Emmett Till” at 2:00 p.m. in the Chapel Hill Public Library. The performance is co-presented by the library and the UNC Program in the Humanities, part of a community dialogue on the legacy of Jim Crow and its impact today.

There will be an audience discussion following the performance.

http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-time/weekend-oc-arts-concerts-tax-relief/

Some Warn Public Not To Panic Over Obamacare Glitches

CHAPEL HILL – As the Obama administration is scrambling to fix major malfunctions in the online health care market place, efforts are being made here in Chapel Hill to help people sign up and avoid the confusion.

Sherry Hay, Director of Community Health Initiatives at UNC Family Medicine, has been helping to lead community events, such as phone banks and informational forums, to educate people about the Affordable Care Act.

Since its launch on Oct. 1, the HealthCare.Gov site, the online market place through which consumers can enroll in health care, has been plagued with problems.

President Barack Obama publicly acknowledged on Monday that the new health care law’s website hasn’t been functioning as it should, but he insisted that Americans should still register for Obamacare, despite the technical problems.

Hay said she alarmed about the misinformation circulating in the media.

“One of the most concerning things is [the notion] that there will be someone in Washington making a decision about their health care, in lieu of that decision being made with their primary care provider,” Hay said. “That is absolutely not correct information.”

At UNC Family Medicine, Hay said she and her team have been helping their patients enroll through the market place.

“So yes, it is frustrating. I understand that, but it is coverage that provides you access. Hopefully in the long term, you’ll see a quality increase and also see our costs go down.”

Hay said the Affordable Care Act is more than just the market place and that the program has many benefits.

“One is making prevention a reimbursable service for Medicare recipients. Prevention, particularly for our older population, for all of us is important. Those many things that the act covers are critical to our long-term health.”

In addition to the government website, applicants can enroll by phone or by mail.

People can call 1-800-318-2596, a line which is open 24/7. A representative will be available to walk consumers through the enrollment process.

Hay explained a new tool has been created on the website to outline which plans are available by state.

Obama pledged Monday to recruit the “best and the brightest” to rectify HealthCare.gov’s technical problems.

“Yes, there have been some problems, but the extent of the law is well worth sometimes what changes bring—which are a few bumps in the road.”

Local Health Care Exchanges Informational Events:

The League of Women Voters is holding a community event Saturday at 10:00 a.m. in the Hillsborough Public Library.

Get Covered America is holding an events nationwide as part of “Treat Yourself To Coverage.” Information sessions will be happening in the Triangle and across the state.

http://chapelboro.com/news/health/some-warn-public-not-to-panic-over-obamacare-glitches/