Incredible Health

Top Health Stories of 2011

When it came to health stories, 2011 certainly had many - some shocking, some sad and some hopeful. 

From a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posting about a zombie invasion to a 16-year-old student dying one day after he broke his leg at football practice, here are's most clicked news articles of the year. 

No. 1 – Are You Ready for a Zombie Invasion?
In May, a cheeky blog posted on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention caught the media’s attention.

Titled, “Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse,” the blog aimed at making the public aware that emergency preparedness is indeed something we should all be thinking about.

"There are all kinds of emergencies out there that we can prepare for," the posting read. "Take a zombie apocalypse for example. That's right, I said z-o-m-b-i-e a-p-o-c-a-l-y-p-s-e. You may laugh now, but when it happens you'll be happy you read this, and hey, maybe you'll even learn a thing or two about how to prepare for a real emergency."

The blog was written by Assistant Surgeon General Ali Khan, and instructed how to prepare for “flesh-eating zombies,” and suggested the steps you would take in preparation for an onslaught of monsters might be similar to those taken in advance of a hurricane or pandemic.

"First of all, you should have an emergency kit in your house," the posting continued. "This includes things like water, food, and other supplies to get you through the first couple of days before you can locate a zombie-free refugee camp (or in the event of a natural disaster, it will buy you some time until you are able to make your way to an evacuation shelter or utility lines are restored)."

Other items to be stashed in such a kit include medications, duct tape, a battery-powered radio, clothes, copies of important documents and first-aid supplies.

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No. 2 – Brushing Hair Could Cause Teen’s Death
You may take brushing your hair for granted – but one Scottish teen with a rare medical condition was told by doctors that it could kill her.

Megan Stewart suffers from hair brushing syndrome. Any contact with static electricity could cause her brain to shut down, the Scottish Daily Record reported in August.

The 13-year-old discovered the condition in 2008 as she was getting ready for school.

"I was brushing her hair in the living room when she flopped over and her lips turned blue. I thought she was having a fit, which she'd never had before, so we called the paramedics,” her mother Sharon said. “It was really scary."

Doctors told her Sharon they had only ever heard of one other case of the syndrome, which causes vital organs to shut down if there is a buildup of static.

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No. 3 – Obese Ohio Man Fused to Chair, Dies
A morbidly obese Ohio man was taken to the hospital in March – where he subsequently died – after police found him fused to a chair. He had not moved from the chair in two years, and police said they were forced to cut a hole in his house to remove him.

The man, whose name was never released, lived with his roommates, including his girlfriend, who fed him since he couldn’t get up. When they found him unresponsive, they called police.

Police reported the man was sitting in his own feces and urine, and his skin was fused to the fabric of the chair. Maggots were visible, they said.

"The living room where the man lived in his chair was very filthy, very deplorable. It's unbelievable that somebody lives in conditions like that," Jim Chase, a local city code enforcer, told WTRF.

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No. 4 – Youngest Patient to Have Gastric Bypass Could Die of Anorexia  
A British woman who was the youngest person in the world to have stomach bypass surgery due to her extreme weight, now suffers from life-threatening anorexia, the Daily Mail reported in May.
Malissa Jones once weighed 448 pounds. Following her 2008 weight-loss surgery, she slimmed down to 112 pounds.

However, doctors warned Jones she would die within six months if she did not start eating more.

One psychologist said Jones’ psychological problems were not dealt with before her surgery, so she swapped one ‘emotional relationship with food for another.’

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No. 5 – Gamers Crack Code of AIDS Protein, Paving Way for New Drugs
Online gamers decoded the structure of a retrovirus protein, which has stumped scientists for more than 10 years – and a study released in September said their breakthrough opens doors for a new AIDS drug.

The protein, called protease, is important in how HIV multiplies. Scientists have been trying to find a way to deactivate proteases, but they were just unable to interpret the enzyme’s structure.

Researchers at the University of Washington turned to Foldit, a university-sponsored program that transforms science problems into competitive computer games. Researchers challenged players to use 3D problem-solving skills to build accurate models of protease.

The gamers made models that were good enough for the researchers to refine into a precise portrayal of protease’s structure. And – the scientists identified parts of the molecule that are likely targets for drugs to block the enzyme.

The study was published in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.
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No. 6 – Where’s the Beef? Not in the Taco, Says Lawsuit
In January, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Taco Bell over claims the company’s taco filler didn’t meet government standards.

The lawsuit also took issue with the fast-food chain’s advertising, saying its claims of using “seasoned ground beef” are false.

The suit – filed by an Alabama law firm – said Taco Bell is using a meat mix containing binders and extenders – and does not meet requirements set forth by the USDA to be accurately labeled as beef.  

According to one attorney, the meat mix contained only 35 percent beef, and the remainder consisted of water, wheat oats, soy lecithin, maltodrextrin, anti-dusting agent and modified corn starch.

The person who filed the suit said she was not seeking money, but wanted the court to order Taco Bell to be honest in its advertising.

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No. 7 – Teen’s First Kiss Ends in Tragedy
In February, British media outlets reported on a teen who collapsed and died from sudden adult death syndrome just a few minutes after her first kiss.

The inquest revealed Jemma Benjamin, 18, had kissed Daniel Ross and then collapsed on his sofa. Shortly thereafter, Benjamin’s eyelids began to droop and she started foaming at the mouth.

Benjamin was a “fit” field hockey player and did not have a history of medical problems.

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No. 8 – Teen Left Paralyzed From Epidural
A teen from the U.K. was left permanently paralyzed from the waist down after an epidural was left in her spine for too long during a surgery to remove gallstones, a hospital admitted in August.

Birmingham Children’s Hospital, in England, admitted it left the painkiller in Sophie Tyler’s back for two days when she was 14, Sky News reported.

The epidural wasn’t removed until 48 hours after the surgery – at which time it entered her spinal cord, damaging the membrane.

The hospital apologized, and Tyler’s lawyer said its admission of guilt would pave the way for a substantial financial settlement.

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No. 9  – Man Dies When Surgeons Ignore Him During Fire
Police in China investigated a man’s death in August when was allegedly abandoned under anesthesia on the operating table after a nearby fire began.

The 49-year-old man was undergoing an amputation after an accident. The fire broke out in an adjacent surgical suite in Shanghai No. 3 People’s Hospital.

Police said the man died from smoke inhalation.

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No. 10 – Teen Football Player Dies After Breaking Leg During Practice
A high school football player from Oklahoma died in August after breaking his leg during football practice.

Ryan Smith, 16, died one day after the injury took place, according to Edmund School District spokeswoman Susan Parks.

Parks said Smith was treated and released from the hospital, but the following day, his grandparents were unable to wake him. They drove him to an emergency room where he arrived in full cardiac arrest, but died nine minutes later.

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The Associated Press, Reuters and NewsCore contributed to this report.