Return to Transcripts main page
HOUSE CALL WITH DR. SANJAY GUPTA
From Medical Miracles in 2006 To New Preventions of Disease in 2007
Aired December 31, 2006 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY FORTIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT, HOUSE CALL: Breakthroughs:
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That has got to be a first.
FORTIN: Success stories:
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have amazing range of motion with this arm.
FORTIN: Cutting-edge medicine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a highly experimental treatment.
FORTIN: Coming up, HOUSE CALL'S BEST OF 2006 and WHAT TO EXPECT IN '07.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT, HOUSE CALL: Hello, and welcome to a special one-hour edition of HOUSE CALL. I'm Doctor Sanjay Gupta.
2006 has been a year filled with medical achievements. Some of those achievements are already saving and improving lives, others offer hope for the future. Over the next hour we're going to show you our top health newsmakers and what to expect in 2007.
We start, though, with the injuries of war. It's a cold, hard fact, war necessitates medical advances.
GUPTA (voice over): A combat medic treats a wounded soldier, airway secured, shaky hands, an IV inserted. Location coordinates radio to a medevac chopper.... A lifetime is now measured in seconds.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:... One, two, three.
GUPTA (on camera):... I want to give you a sense of what's happening now.... They're actually moved this patient to an evacuation area.... One of the hallmarks of that evacuation is actually setting up a perimeter.... This is a potentially dangerous area.
They're continuing to survey the patient, but they really need to get him out of here.
(voice-over) To save the wounded, it's no longer, be as fast as possible.... Now medics have a precise time frame, 60 minutes. Precisely 3,600 seconds.... They call it the golden hour.
CAPT. BRIAN KRUSTCHINSKY, U.S. ARMY COMBAT MEDIC TRAINING: Objective on the battlefield is to get the soldier from point of injury to definitive surgical care in one hour.
GUPTA:... The military is investing unprecedented amounts of money in training, new gear and research, all focused on buying more time. They actually want to extend that golden hour.
COL. JOHN HOLCOMB, M.D., U.S. ARMY INSTITUTE OF MEDICAL RESEARCH: Wars always cause improvements in trauma care.... And that goes back thousands of years.
GUPTA:... Scientists at Massachusetts General are working on suspended animation, actually cooling a casualty's body down and slowing the body processes.
At the Wake Forest School of Medicine, amazingly, they're working to regenerate body tissue like skin or fingers.... It is for the battlefield, but ultimately, of course, for civilian medicine. Millions of military dollars to add time to treat an injury.
(on camera) Coming under fire.... Lots of dust blowing around.... See how they hang onto each other.... They don't actually put their hands inside the vehicle, and they get those bodies out of there as quickly as possible.
(voice-over) The equipment is efficient.... Wound dressings that can actually clot blood.... Tourniquets that a medic can apply with one hand.... Simple and standard issue with these packs.
Each medic is expected to be as good as a doctor or a nurse at treating battlefield wounds; all of that with just 16 weeks of training.
(on camera) This is an example of the training that we're talking about.... There are 13 casualties, supposedly from a convoy bombing, a suicide bomber.... There are eight medics that have come in here trying to stabilize these patients as quickly as possible.
It is dark.... There's a lot of noise.... And sometimes they can't tell exactly what the injuries are.... A lot of communication back and forth to try and figure out how to best take care of these patients.
(voice-over) Yes, it's fake blood and simulated situations.... But the pressures are urgently realistic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:... You walked away from a guy that still had a heartbeat.
GUPTA (on camera): If you look at civilian society, to learn as much as they're learning in 16 weeks would typically take how long, do you think?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:... Something like this probably at least a year. They think they know a lot.... They just haven't figured out how to process it all at one time.... And this -- they leave here, they feel bad about themselves.... That group walking out of here, they're going to go outside and cry.
GUPTA (voice-over):... Though the medic boot camp is intense, it's working.... The killed-in-action rate today is almost half that of the Vietnam War.
GUPTA: Some of the amazing work that they're doing at Fort Sam, Houston. And really around many military training sites new technology and advances are constantly coming about. In fact, not so long ago I tried out some of the technology they're just starting to use to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. It is something the Veterans Administration estimates 15 percent of returning soldiers are struggling with.
GUPTA (voice over): I was experiencing the reality of war, but in fact, it was virtual reality of war.
(On camera):... Helpless. Totally helpless and really, really scared.... Because I thought I was going to die.... I didn't want to die like that.
(Voice-over):... I wasn't ready for what would happen.... It was perhaps as unnerving, as intense and as disturbing an experience as I could imagine.
(On camera):... Every time I hear a new noise, I can feel my heart starting to pound.... I have a little bit of the shakes with my hands.
(Voice-over):... Here at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, therapists use videogame technology to help Iraq vets overcome PTSD. They take the vets back, virtually, to the place where their trauma began.
It's an electronic deja vu.... They feel as if it's real.... The sights, sounds, vibrations, even the smells of the Iraq War, but in a safe environment.
I experienced it for myself with the help of Dr. MaryRose Gerardi at Emory University in Atlanta, one of the therapy's test sites.... I was quickly brought back to my time covering the war in Iraq.
MARYROSE GERARDI, EMORY UNIVERSITY:... Right now, you are sitting in the humvee.... I'd like you to just move ahead slowly.
GUPTA (on camera):... That is wild.
GERARDI:... You can certainly stand up if you'd like, but please be careful.... Now, as we go along, what I can do is add stimuli along the way that hopefully would elicit some of your specific memory, for instance...
GUPTA:... Ah, helicopters flying overhead.
GERARDI:... Yes.... I'm going to give you something that's a little bit more disturbing.
GUPTA:... That is really frightening.... You have no idea what is happening right now.... Just two of our vehicles have just -- looked like they've exploded. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we're trying to get out of there as quickly as possible.... I can feel my heart rate just starting to pound. It looks like we just took some gunfire.... More gunfire.
GERARDI:... Now I would be asking you if you were working on a specific memory to be recounting your memory and confronting that memory.
GUPTA:... Well, there was one time when we were driving along and all of a sudden our convoy came under fire.
GERARDI:... What happened next?
GUPTA:... It was nighttime and so all these tracer fire, I guess, hitting the front of the convoy in front of us.
GUPTA:... And we all just ducked down into the truck as low as we could go.... You're literally just sort of covering your head, and making sure your helmet chin strap is on as tight as it can be.
GERARDI:... Yes.... What were you feeling at that point?
GUPTA:... Helpless, totally helpless and really, really scared because I thought I was going to die.... I didn't want to die like that.
I am very uncomfortable right now, especially as I -- and I am trying to get this thing to get us out of here as quickly as possible.
Every time I hear a new noise, I can feel my heart starting to pound.... I have a little bit of the shakes with my hands.
GERARDI:... What I would be doing also at this point, Sanjay, is asking you to rate your level of anxiety on a scale from zero to 100.
GUPTA:... 90.... I don't feel good at all right now.
GERARDI:... OK. ... But the goal, as we had talked about, is to confront the fear memory in a safe place.... You don't want to avoid it. Confront it and find out that you can habituate to that level of anxiety, and be OK with it.
GUPTA:... I have to tell you, I was stunned by my own reaction.... I mean, I knew it was only a simulation, but my reaction was so powerful.
The psychologists who designed this believe by repeatedly facing your fears you can control them, even defeat them.
Just ahead on HOUSE CALL, cutting edge science may allow you to create your own replacement parts. And the latest images and news about the face transplant patients. All of that is coming up on this special edition of HOUSE CALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO MONTAGE)
GUPTA: We heard five different sirens go off. This is what it's like every day for these doctors, these patients.
This is the actual blast site. This is where the missile actually hit.
Sirens are going off, there are questions whether or not there will be another air strike.
These are all refugees that actually come to this market.
No doubt it is not easy to take care of people in a refugee camp, but here's where it really gets difficult. What happens to a child like this.
This is where they're living now.
It is often very difficult to get to some of these refugee camps. Case in point, I'm standing on top of a car, and a car that has now been stuck in a riverbed.
(END VIDEO MONTAGE)
GUPTA: Welcome back.
When a car is damaged we usually bring it here, to get new parts. And they're easily available. The thing is, we can't say the same thing about our bodies, until now.
This year Doctor Todd Kuiken created replacement parts for our bodies, specifically a bionic arm for women. Get this, Claudia Mitchell, a 26-year-old ex-Marine was the first woman to be rewired. It's called targeted muscle reintervation. They take nerves in shoulder that once went to her now amputated arm, and they are rerouted and connected to muscles in her chest. Mitchell's arm is now powered by her own thoughts, a huge advancement.
And Dr. Kuiken says he's not done. Motorized legs with powered knees and ankles are next.
And from the exterior to underneath the hood, there is some amazing science out there that holds promise for those with failing organs. We're not talking about dialysis or replacement parts, or stem cells. We're talking about using our own bodies.
GUPTA (voice over): By most definitions this is the life of a typical 16-year-old girl. But the days were not always this happy for Kaitlyn McNamara.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: By the time she was three or four years old she was already up to like 35 surgeries.
GUPTA: Kaitlyn was born with spina bifida. That's a rare birth defect that stunts brain and spinal cord development. Another problem surfaced: Kaitlyn's bladder was the size of a thimble and could not sustain normal amounts of fluid. What didn't fit into her bladder flowed back toward her kidneys. Doctors offered the most common surgical option, using a piece of intestine to create a new bladder. But that procedure is not without risks.
DR. ANTHONY ATALA, UROLOGIST, WAKE FOREST UNIV.: This may lead to problems with bone growth, mucus production, certain metabolic problems, even cancer.
GUPTA: Doctor Anthony Atala, a urologist at Wake Forest University, believed there had to be a away to dodge those problems. Kaitlyn's own bladder, not just repairing it, but creating an entirely new bladder using her own cells.
ATALA: We're not using any type of stem cell population or cloning techniques, but mainly the patient's own cells that we're using to create these organs and put them back into the patient.
GUPTA: Kaitlyn was one of the first patients ever to undergo this technique. So how does it work? Well, a small piece, less than the size of a postage stamp is taken from the patient's bladder. Both muscle and bladder cells are teased out from that piece of the bladder and grown in a Petri dish.
When there are sufficient number of cells they are layered onto a three dimensional mold, shaped like a bladder, and they're allowed to grow. Several weeks later the cells have produced a newly engineered bladder, which is implanted into the patient. Several more weeks later the new bladder has grown fully inside the body and can function on its own.
All seven patients who underwent the procedure, including Kaitlyn, report dramatic improvements. Their bladders hold more fluid and they have fewer problems with incontinence. And because the organ comes from their own tissues.
ATALA: When the organ is placed back into the patient you avoid all of the problems with rejection.
GUPTA: Many more studies must still be done before growing replacement organs becomes mainstream and used for other organs like hearts, livers, or lungs.
For now, this beneficiary of the new technology is a step closer to being a normal teenager.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm happy. I was always afraid that I was going to have like an accident or something. And now I can just go and -- go out with my friends, go do whatever I want.
GUPTA: Transplanting a human face was once unheard of and to this day still argued over by medical ethicists, actually happened almost a year ago. Now as 2007 begins, word on how that patient is doing and the possibility of an even more controversial operation.
GUPTA (voice over): Hollywood's notion that this is how a face transplant is done. John Travolta and Nicholas Cage swapping faces in the 1997 movie, "Face Off" was debunked when Isabelle Dinoire showed her new face to the world in early 2006. She was the first person to receive a partial face transplant.
ISABELLE DINOIRE, FACE TRANSPLANT: (Speaking in French)
GUPTA: Even though her speech was slurred and her face didn't move much, Dinoire told the world that she could open her mouth and she could eat again. This, just a few months after French surgeons replaced her nose, lips and chin with tissue taken from a brain-dead donor.
Ten months later a new picture of Dinoire emerged. Her face looks more normal compared to her media debut. And now she's no longer the only partial face transplant recipient. Last April, Chinese surgeons replaced a hunter's cheek, lip and nose, after he was mauled by a bear.
Still, what hasn't been done is a full face transplant. And this surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic hopes to be the first to do so. Maybe 2007 will be the year it happens. She's had approval for the experimental operation for three years now.
(On camera): This could happen relatively soon, though, it sounds like?
DR. MARIA SIEMIONOW (ph), CLEVELAND CLINIC: We have done all our homework and we were really looking at the selection criteria of the patients and we are now working on the issue of tissue donation, getting this idea into organ procurement organizations.
GUPTA: Can you just show me, even on your own face, what does it involved exactly? What are you doing?
SIEMIONOW (ph): Well, what we were looking into, the full-face transplant may include also scalp in some patients. So, some patients who have a scalp injury will be having the face with the scalp. Or the part of the scalp, if only part of the scalp is involved.
GUPTA: Are you taking the nose, the lips --
SIEMIONOW (ph): Yes, if the patient requires that, then we can take the nose and we can take lips or part of the ears, as well.
GUPTA: To go from this, though, idea of doing reconstructive surgery, as has been done for so long, to actually doing a face transplant, still seems like a big leap. Why do it?
SIEMIONOW (ph): Some of those patients, when interviewed, they said, "I just don't want to walk on the street and be sure that I'm just not sticking out. I want just to have a normal face. And that's very important that there is an extra opportunity to present to them in the form which will give a new reconstructive options.
GUPTA (voice over): Just a few weeks ago British surgeon, Doctor Peter Butler received preliminary approval from his hospital to do a full face transplant.
(On camera): Is it important to be first?
SIEMIONOW (ph): I don't think so. I think it is important, maybe to bring the idea, and present it to the society and educate the society.
GUPTA (voice over): Regardless of who is first, 2007 maybe the year it happens.
FORTIN: Microscopic cells may have altered politics in 2006, now leaders vow, 2007 will bring even bigger changes for stem cells.
Plus, dire predictions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to be faced with potential catastrophe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FORTIN: Whatever happened to bird flu?
FORTIN: August 2006, the end of a controversy. The FDA approved the morning after pill for over the counter sale, when taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, it can reduce the chance a woman will get pregnant by almost 90 percent. Critics say the pill is tantamount to abortion. As of November, the pill called Plan B became available for women over age 18.
GUPTA: In a year where war and the economy took center stage in election politics, who would have thought microscopic cells could have stolen some of the limelight. But the debate over stem cells created quite an uproar before the election, and now, as those newly elected representatives prepare to go to work, Elizabeth Cohen reports, the issue could be heating up again.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT, HOUSE CALL: This cell, this one little cell, was cause for great controversy in 2006. That's because it's an embryonic stem cell. When actor Michael J. Fox sees it, he sees a possible cure for his Parkinson's and many other diseases.
MICHAEL J. FOX, ACTOR, SUFFERS WITH PARKINSON'S: In Missouri you can vote for Claire McCaskill, who shares my hope for cures.
COHEN: This fall, Fox urged voters to support candidates who want more federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. But when some conservatives, like talk show host Rush Limbaugh see this cell. They think about how making this research involves destroying the embryo it comes from. Limbaugh reacted quickly to Fox's ads.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, TALK SHOW HOST: He is moving all around and shaking and it's purely an act. This is the only time I have ever seen Michael J. Fox portray any of the symptoms of the disease he has.
COHEN: This controversy is sure to spill over into 2007. The Democratic leadership has vowed to pass more funding for embryonic stem cell research with in the first 100 hours of the new Congress, but they'll face an uphill battle.
In July, President Bush vetoed a bill that would have eased restrictions for embryonic stem cell research.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: American taxpayers would, for the first time in our history, be compelled to fund the deliberate destruction of human embryos and I'm not going to allow it.
COHEN: Next year experts say look for scientists to work on ways to create embryonic stem cells, without destroying and embryo. And look for states to supply funding for embryonic stem cell research on their own. California already does. And in Florida, signatures are being gathered to put stem cells on the ballot in 2008.
And the Missouri pro-stem cell initiative that Fox campaigned for? It passed. And the candidates Fox did ads for? They won, too. Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Atlanta.
GUPTA: Thanks, Elizabeth. And the best is yet to come on a special edition of HOUSE CALL. Attacking cancer with your very own cells. New hope for the deadliest types. And this year, we saw a vaccine for cancer. Are others on the horizon? All of that is coming up next.
FORTIN: A new vaccine provides hope for preventing cancer.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A vaccine that prevents cervical cancer? I mean, this is -- this is big.
FORTIN: But with a dose of controversy.
And salads became deadly in 2006.
GUPTA: This particular strain of e. Coli does appear to be a very serious one.
FORTIN: Is the government doing enough to protect us. Find out how to keep yourself from getting sick.
Plus, silicone is back. Funding is up. And restaurants take a beating on fat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Taxpayers are going to be paying for people's eating habits.
FORTIN: That's all coming up on HOUSE CALL.
GUPTA: Welcome back to a special look at new advances in medicine. I'm Doctor Sanjay Gupta. And you're watching HOUSE CALL: PROGNOSIS '07.
Cancer has taken the lives of more than 500,000 Americans this year. The leading killer, lung cancer, is on the rise in certain populations. This was highlighted by the shocking death of non-smoker Dana Reeve, earlier this year. The primary reason for this disease's deadliness is late diagnosis. There haven't been any early screening tools.
But that might be changing. A study out this year showed C T scans on high-risk patients might catch lung cancer in its earliest stages, allowing for better treatment. Experts say more research is needed by the findings show promise.
Another intriguing discovery this year comes from a cancer fighting pioneer. He's a doctor who may have found a way for our own bodies to fight the very cancer invading our cells.
GUPTA (voice over): Mark Origer shared the dreams of many fathers I've met, to walk his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day. But melanoma almost took that away from him. He was diagnosed with the deadly skin cancer in 1999. After an operation it went away, but it came back three years later. And by 2004 his doctors in Wisconsin could find nothing that would slow its spread. It moved into his liver.
MARK ORIGER, CANCER SURVIVOR: I was pretty much devastated when I found out that I did not respond. Right around that time my daughter got engaged. And I knew there was going to be a wedding coming up. So it was a concern, I wanted to be there.
GUPTA: The chance of that happening wasn't very good. But then Mark's dreams intersected with the dreams of a doctor halfway across the country. Dr. Steven Rosenberg is a cancer fighting pioneer at the National Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, Maryland.
When he was a young doctor in Boston he saw a patient fight off cancer without any treatment.
DR. STEVEN ROSENBERG, NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE: And it got me to thinking about the fact that here this patient's body had learned how to destroy his own cancer. And I spent the last 25 years trying to figure out how to make that happen again.
GUPTA: Not with a knife or chemotherapy, or even radiation, but by reaching deep inside the body and teaching the human immune system to kill cancer all on its own, a remarkable idea. And one that doctors put to the test in clinical trials with Mark and 16 other patients diagnosed with melanoma.
Doctors took some of their immune cells, called lymphocytes, the warriors of the immune system and added the genes of a virus that would seek out tumors attach to them and destroy them. In 15 patients the treatment didn't work. But in two, so far, the cancer appears to have completely disappeared. Mark was the first.
And this week when we met him, more than a year and a half after the treatment, he found out he still cancer free.
ROSENBERG: Mark, as you know, is one of the first patients to respond to this new treatment. So we're thrilled. I know he is.
ORIGER: Yes, absolutely.
GUPTA (on camera): How does it feel to be the first?
ORIGER: It feels unique, it does. It feels quite and honor.
GUPTA (voice over): Although the approach is still in clinical trials the results are published in the journal, "Science".
ROSENBERG: This is a highly experimental treatment that we've used in only a few patients, but it represents a proof of the principle, for the first time -- to my knowledge -- that you can actually genetically manipulate the human body and cause disease regression.
GUPTA: And yes, Mark's other dream also came true as well. On September 17, 2005, he walked his daughter, Katie, down the aisle, virtually cancer free.
ORIGER: It was a celebration, a celebration of life. It was the beginning of my daughter's life, her new life, and the beginning of my new life. I think I shed more tears than anybody.
GUPTA: Mark is still cancer free. And Doctor Rosenberg and his colleagues are testing this treatment on other cancers. He tells us to expect results from those clinical trials in late 2007.
Now this year saw the results of 15 years of research to find something very rare, a vaccine to help prevent cancer. Now it's on the market and stirring up controversy.
GUPTA: She had no symptoms and didn't know anything about the disease, so Denise Visbalt (ph) was stunned when like hundreds of thousands of other women every year she was diagnosed with pre- cancerous cells in her cervix.
DENISE VISBALT (ph), CANCER SURVIVOR: It was shocking, scary, very scary.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We needed to do surgery right away if we hadn't gone right away we would have had to done a hysterectomy, it would have up the uterus, it would have been pretty bad.
GUPTA: For almost 10,000 women in the United States every year those pre-cancerous cells turn into invasive cervical cancer, and close to 4,000 women die from it.
It's caused by the Human Papillomavirus, or HPV, a sexually transmitted disease that more than half of sexually active people get at some time in their lives, over 6 million Americans every year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most women who are infected with the virus, as high as 70 percent actually clear the virus and don't have any pre- cancerous or cancerous conditions.
GUPTA: Now there is a way to prevent the virus from ever taking hold in the first place, it's a vaccine. Typically you think of vaccines for the measles or chickenpox, but Gardisil protects you against cancer, trials showed the vaccine could lower cervical cancer rates by 70 percent.
DR. JOHN SCHILLER, MEDICAL RESEARCHER: It was a great feeling to really have thought that, hey this is gonna be a vaccine that could work.
GUPTA: Doctor John Schiller is part of a team that worked 15 years to develop it.
SCHILLER: The group that would benefit the most from this vaccine would be adolescents and young women who have not been sexually active yet.
(BEGIN ADVERTISMENT CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to tell my daughter --
(END ADVERTISMENT CLIP)
GUPTA: So Merck has launched an aggressive campaign to market Gardisil.
Research shows that more than 4 percent of women have had sex by age 13, and that the vaccine is safe for girls as young as nine. That fuels debate about whether or not to recommend to vaccine for girls in puberty.
Conservative groups worry that giving them the vaccine would send young people a message that it's OK to have sex before marriage and the oppose recommending the vaccine for schoolchildren, because many schools would make it a requirement. But many are concerned that not requiring the vaccine in schools means many would not get it, since it cost $360.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do not feel it should be made mandatory for school attendance.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Once people leave the school system it is harder to monitor, it is harder to promote, it is harder to ensure widespread adoption of the vaccine.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have any questions?
GUPTA: Denise plans to use the vaccine as an opportunity to talk to her 10-year-old daughter Annabelle about sex.
VISBALT (ph): I think it's a wonderful thing. A vaccine that prevents cervical cancer, I mean, this is -- this is big.
GUPTA: And there might be other vaccines, as well, on the horizon. More than 10 advanced clinical trials are ongoing for vaccines to prevent or fight cancers, like prostate, non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and melanoma.
Go to the clinical trials web site called Clinicaltrails.gov for more information or to register. And just ahead, how safe is the food on your table? It has been a year of outbreaks. We look at what's being done.
Plus, remember bird flu? Find out why experts say we still need to be vigilant.
FORTIN: Fall 2006, Congress passes the first ever autism bill, and President Bush signs the legislation, providing $945 million in autism funding to the National Institutes of Health. The Combating Autism Act creates a 50 percent increase in current federal spending on autism. The money is earmarked for research into autism spectrum disorders and is expected to be release over the next five years.
GUPTA: More Americans than ever before are eating out, looking for ease and a good dining experience. What millions of Americans got this year, instead, is sick. In fact 72 percent of people who got food poisoning think they got it from a restaurant. And as Judy Fortin points out, government and critics agree, the current food safety situation needs to change.
FORTIN (voice over): Vegetables are supposed to be good for you. But several outbreaks of food borne illness around the country made some Americans question what the put on their plate.
Doctors at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention work to unravel outbreaks as they spread.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We first heard about a cluster of cases in Wisconsin, on Friday September 8.
FORTIN: By the time the investigation really got going the outbreak had spread coast to coast. Three people had died and around 200 became ill. The tainted produce was eventually traced to packaged spinach grown in California. Doctor Griffin says there were plenty of clues as to the source of the illness.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: More than the typical number of people were women. And when we hear that there are a lot of women, in an outbreak, who are sick we think salad items. And so we start looking more carefully for produce items, although, we ask people about everything they ate in the week before they got sick.
FORTIN: Similar tactics were used earlier this month in tracking two separate outbreaks of e. Coli, linked to fast food Mexican restaurants that sickened dozens. The CDC estimates that 76 million Americans get food poisoning each year, 5,000 die.
The people responsible for protecting our food, the Food and Drug Administration, says this is unacceptable.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is very difficult for a consumer to know, where was this grown? You know? Is it OK for me to eat this?
FORTIN: Not only are consumers asking, but so are some watchdog groups that question the government's ability to get a handle on food safety.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The USDA and FDA do not have the adequate resources to make sure that our food is safe.
FORTIN: The FDA only has about 2,000 inspectors for roughly 80 percent of the food supply. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has 7,000 inspectors for the remaining 20 percent. In August, the Department of Homeland Security announced it was establishing the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility to focus on food safety and to minimize the risk. But it will be about two years before it's up and running.
Until then, the experts say, take matters into your own hands by always washing your hand before and after handling produce. Washing fruits and vegetables under running water, especially if they won't be cooked. And avoiding some produce if you're medically at high risk. Judy Fortin, CNN, Atlanta.
GUPTA: A year ago the headlines were infected with stories of bird flu, warning of possible disaster. Panicked people stocked up on medications and worried that their poultry supply was safe. As we now know that pandemic did not happen. But as we head into 2007, we can't say that we dodged a bullet -- yet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to be faced with potential catastrophe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Imagine millions of Americans quarantined in a deadly flu outbreak.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I say with certainty it's going to happen, no. Can I say that from a perfect storm standpoint all the ingredients are there? Absolutely.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would not be surprised if within a period of several months to a year would see this even in the United States.
GUPTA (voice over): Today, the frenzy in the United States has gone, but the virus known as H5N1 is still with us. In fact there were more deaths in 2006 than in '05. Far from mutating into a milder strain, the virus has become even deadlier, killing two-thirds of its victims. H5N1 circulates in wild birds. And after months with few new cases, it turned up in South Korean chickens and quail in November.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're talking about the end of the year and the beginning of the year, that's when you start seeing more poultry outbreaks. And when you see poultry outbreaks that is when you see human cases.
GUPTA: Doctor Tim Yuvecki (ph), has investigated several outbreaks in Asia. He says the nightmare scenario would be a mutated virus, a form that spreads easily from person to person.
(on camera): Where do we stand now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The good news is we don't have an H5N1 pandemic yet, the bad news is these viruses keep changing. You know, it's a moving -- they're moving targets.
GUPTA: If disaster does strike, are we more ready now than we were a year ago?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is an isolated ward.
GUPTA: Some hospitals like this one in Washington run extensive disaster drills and have set up special areas full of protective gear, where contagious patients could quickly be isolated. But a recent report card from the non-profit, Trust for America's Health, says that is the exception.
It said basic healthcare is stretched so thin half of all U.S. states would run out of hospital beds within two weeks in even a moderate flu pandemic, not the worst case scenario. Treatment options are limited anyway.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't have any magic treatment right now, but it's really Osiltamavere (ph) treatment as early as possible and supportive care.
GUPTA: The federal government has ordered 44 million doses of Tamiflu and Relenza, a similar drug. And asked the states to buy another 31 million, but barely a third of those doses are ready. There is a vaccine, but it can't prevent the bird flu. Experts say it would, at best, reduce symptoms and deaths. Mass production would take several months and would start after the pandemic arrives and the virus strain is identified.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This one does keep me up at night. Some day there will be worldwide transmission.
GUPTA: H5N1 is still keeping disaster planners from a good night's sleep.
FORTIN: Just ahead, sleeplessness nights for restaurant owners. They received a fat trimming ultimatum.
And a look at what's coming up in 2007.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our mission, saving your life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The latest news on ways you can prevent and beat cancer.
FORTIN: First, surviving the new year, in "The Pulse".
FORTIN (voice over): There's no cure for a hangover, but drinking fruit juice might help. Those products that contain fructose help the body burn alcohol faster. Sipping water helps prevent dehydration. And eating bland foods may boost your blood sugar and settle an upset stomach, but time is the best treatment. Experts agree a hangover will go away in eight to 24 hours.
If you're resolving to live a healthier lifestyle in the New Year, psychologists say succeeding requires a realistic plan. Experts recommend setting several small goals. Enlist a spouse or friend for support. And set a reasonable time-table. Reward yourself when you accomplish part of the resolution. And don't be frustrated by setbacks. Resolutions don't have to be stressful. They can be a fresh start to the New Year. Judy Fortin, CNN.
FORTIN: September 2006, the Institute of Medicine reports a troubling prediction. By 2010, 20 percent of American children will be obese. Over the last 30 years, obesity rates have been surging. Specifically, they've tripled in kids under 19. The IOM is pushing for more research to determine which anti-obesity initiatives are working and why.
GUPTA: Some experts point to restaurants, especially fast food restaurants, as one of the culprits in the growing number of overweight and obese. And not helping the restaurants' cause, something that makes food taste so good, could actually be dangerous to your health. In fact, get this, one study showed that eliminating that single ingredient could cut down on heart attacks and related deaths by as much as 19 percent.
GUPTA (voice over): If you're eating out, it's probably lurking in your sandwich, in your pie, even in your salad. It's artificial transfat. And that's a processed fat created by hydrogenating oils. Now, it makes pastries flakier, fries crispier, and helps food stay fresher for longer.
This month New York City's board of health announced it is banning transfats from its eating establishments. By July of next year the city's restaurants will be required to nix transfats from frying oils. And by July 2008, these artery blockers have to be cut out completely from foods prepared by eateries.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know from large numbers of nutrition- based studies over decades now that transfats tend to raise the bad cholesterol.
GUPTA: Not only do transfats increase LDL, or bad cholesterol, but some studies show they also lower HDL, the good cholesterol. The effect, a greater risk for heart disease and stroke.
Now, in 2006, the FDA required food manufacturers to label transfat contends on their packaging. For 2007, the challenge to eradicate the fat from New York City menus has restaurateurs up in arms.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They don't feel that a municipal health agency should have the power to ban a product that FDA has already approved.
GUPTA: Nevertheless, this year major fast food chains, including Wendy's, Taco Bell, and KFC, started programs to phase out transfats from all or most of their foods. In light of New York City's restrictions, well the rest of the nation follow suite? Well, the city of Chicago could be next.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Banning of transfats now in the 21st century, is akin to our battle to ban smoking 12 and 14 years ago.
GUPTA: This past summer Alderman Edward Burke (ph) introduced an ordinance to strictly limit amounts of transfats for restaurants grossing $20 million or more in annual sales. In Chicago, the proposition is still under debate as other parts of the country balance freedom of choice with the prospect of mandated health measures perhaps will see in 2007, which one carries the most weight.
GUPTA: Stay where you are, more HOUSE CALL coming up after the break. And a look at what to expect in 2007.
FORTIN: November 2006, silicone gel breast implants make a comeback. The FDA gives the green light to two companies to resume selling the implants, 14 years after they were pulled off the market over safety concerns.
Women of any age may now get silicone implants for reconstruction. And those over age 22 can use them for augmentation.
Coming up, in 2007, we team up with Lance Armstrong in saving your life. Researching ways to avoid and beat cancer.
In March go behind the scenes at the grueling real-life world of medical residence at one of the America's busiest teaching hospitals. It's a real-life Grady's Anatomy.
Then a book, and a CNN special: "Chasing Life" delves into the latest research on living the longest healthiest life possible.
And follow Doctor Gupta across the country on his "Fit Nation Tour" this spring and summer. Tune in, download, and click on CNN for the latest medical news in the new year.
GUPTA: Most importantly, have a happy and healthy New Year. And make sure to tune in to HOUSE CALL every Saturday and Sunday at 8:30 Eastern to hear experts explain the latest medical news and answer your questions. During the week, check out my blog, and make CNN.com/health your source for news and information. Thanks for watching. I'm Doctor Sanjay Gupta. Stay tuned now for more news on CNN.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com.