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Google Is Secretly Collecting Health Data, and American Workers Should Be Worried

November 26, 2019

(Quartz) – People suffer when their bosses have access to wide-ranging information about their health, such as blood pressure, average heart rate, and sleep patterns. But the rising cost of health insurance makes having healthier workers an important cost-saving measure. Employers have a strong incentive to collect data to help them identify which of their workers are most likely to have health problems in the future. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides no protections against discriminating on the basis of potential disabilities or simply bad health conditions that US employees might suffer from in the future.

New CDC Report Offers a Possible Clue About Why Vaping Illness Sprang Up in 2019

November 26, 2019

(STAT News) – A new report adds to the evidence that vitamin E acetate might play a role in a spate of vaping-related illnesses that have sickened thousands. It could also offer an early clue about why the illnesses appeared seemingly suddenly this year — though experts caution it’s too soon to rule out other potential culprits. The chemical — used as an additive or thickener in some vaping products — was found in vaping products used by 11 of 12 patients sickened with vaping-related illness in Minnesota, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday.

A New Sickle Cell Disease Drug Holds Much Promise But Most Sufferers Won’t Be Able to Afford It

November 26, 2019

(Quartz) – The regulatory approval of a groundbreaking new Sickle cell disease drug in the United States by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) sparked off plenty of hope and optimism earlier this month and the news that it is already heading for clinical trials in some African countries was also welcomed. But that optimism has been replaced by concerns the new treatment is priced beyond the reach of the majority of sufferers on the continent.

1 Year Later, Mystery Surrounds China’s Gene-Edited Babies

November 26, 2019

(ABC News) – Chinese scientist He Jiankui shocked the world by claiming he had helped make the first gene-edited babies. One year later, mystery surrounds his fate as well as theirs. He has not been seen publicly since January, his work has not been published and nothing is known about the health of the babies. “That’s the story — it’s all cloaked in secrecy, which is not productive for the advance of understanding,” said Stanford bioethicist Dr. William Hurlbut.

Ebola Response on Lockdown as Violence Flares

November 26, 2019

(Nature) – A surge in violence and unrest has forced Ebola responders in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo city of Beni to remain indoors for the last week — hampering efforts to contain the virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) has temporarily evacuated one-third of its 120 staff members stationed in the city. Those who remain have largely stopped tracing the contacts of people diagnosed with Ebola, who they would normally then vaccinate and monitor for signs of infection.

U.S. Life Expectancy Declining Due to More Deaths in Middle Age

November 26, 2019

(Reuters) – After rising for decades, life expectancy in the U.S. decreased for three straight years, driven by higher rates of death among middle aged Americans, a new study suggests.  Midlife all-cause mortality rates were increasing between 2010 and 2017, driven by higher numbers of deaths due to drug overdoses, alcohol abuse, suicides and organ system diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes, according to the report published in JAMA.

In the Fight for Money for the Opioid Crisis, Will the Youngest Victims Be Left Out?

November 25, 2019

(NPR) – Babies born to mothers who used opioids during pregnancy represent one of the most distressing legacies of an opioid epidemic that has claimed almost 400,000 lives and ravaged communities.  In fact, many of the ongoing lawsuits filed against drug companies make reference to these babies, fighting through withdrawal in hospital nurseries. The cluster of symptoms they experience, which include tremors, seizures and respiratory distress, is known as neonatal abstinence syndrome. Until recently, doctors rarely looked for the condition. Then case numbers quadrupled over a decade. Hospital care for newborns with NAS has cost Medicaid billions of dollars. Studies indicate more than 30,000 babies with the condition are born every year in the U.S. — about one every 15 minutes.

A Sip of Morphine: Uganda’s Old-School Solution to a Shortage of Painkillers

November 25, 2019

(NPR) – In the United States, drugmakers have flooded the market with powerful, sophisticated opioids. And that’s fueled an epidemic of addiction. But across Africa many patients can’t afford even mild painkillers — let alone medications to help people in extreme pain. Uganda has come up with a solution that goes back to basics with one of the world’s original painkillers: morphine.  The government mixes a powdered form of the drug with water to create a drinkable analgesic that officials say has provided patients with effective relief without giving rise to widespread addiction. Just as important, it’s cheap.

Hey Surgeon, Is That a HoloLens on Your Head?

November 25, 2019

(Wired) – Digital markings superimposed on real-world camera feeds have become commonplace in everyday life, as in the rear-view cameras on cars and the first-down lines in televised football games, but it’s a new phenomenon in surgery. In 2017, the guidance system Citardi used became the first to gain approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for sinus surgery. Two different surgical planning apps designed for HoloLens, Microsoft’s mixed reality headset, have since also garnered FDA approval. Coming soon are the shimmering holograms of sci-fi imagination in surgery itself: A clinical trial is now evaluating whether HoloLens headsets help surgeons and radiologists zap tumors.

Single in Poland? Your Embryos Could Be Given to Another Couple

November 25, 2019

(Australian Broadcasting Co) – Under Polish law, her embryos could one day be given to a married couple she has never met, without her permission. Because Barbara is separated from her husband, as a single woman, she is now treated as an “anonymous donor” under a law passed in Poland in 2015. “If the embryos are taken away from me physically, I know that after 20 years they will no longer be mine [they will be] taken away against my will,” Barbara says sadly.

Vape Debate: Are E-Cigarettes Wiping Out Teen Smoking?

November 25, 2019

(Associated Press) – In almost any other year it would be hailed as a public health victory: The smoking rate among U.S. high schoolers took its biggest hit ever this year, federal figures show, falling to a new low. Instead the milestone was relegated to a lone figure at the bottom of a government press release and went unremarked by anti-tobacco groups that have spent decades working to stamp out youth smoking. It’s a new era in the tobacco wars — one in which the alarming rise of underage vaping has almost completely overshadowed a parallel drop in traditional smoking. 

Mental Illness Behind Bars: The Hard Lessons of Orleans Parish

November 22, 2019

(Undark) – Crawford’s case shows what can happen to prisoners with mental illness who rattle around in a broken system — and there are many. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, every year in the United States 2 million people with serious mental illness are booked into jails. And while black prisoners are less likely to suffer from severe mental illness compared to the broader prison population, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a 2016 survey of 22,000 people entering jails suggested that basic screenings simply don’t catch mental health issues for black and Latino prisoners.

‘It’s Sort of the Wild West’: How Instagram Influencers Are Disrupting Healthcare

November 22, 2019

(Fast Company) – In truth, the healthcare industry needs influencers. The last few decades have seen consumer trust wane as numerous scandals nipped at the medical establishment’s authority. Pharma giants such as Johnson & Johnson face multiple lawsuits related to the opioid crisis, while women continuously report being misdiagnosed or flat out ignored by doctors. That’s in addition to the trend of people increasingly turning to Dr. Google for medical information versus discussing issues with their doctors. (To be fair, the average doctor’s visit lasts 17 minutes, which leaves little time to build relationships or discuss medical issues in depth.) Social media influencers, it can be said, offer health providers and medical companies a way back in.

DR Congo Measles: Nearly 5,000 Dead in Major Outbreak

November 21, 2019

(BBC) – Measles has killed nearly 5,000 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2019, authorities said, after the disease spread to all the provinces in the country. Close to a quarter of a million people have been infected this year alone. The World Health Organization (WHO) says this is the world’s largest and fastest-moving epidemic. Measles in DR Congo has now killed more than twice the number who have died of Ebola there in the last 15 months.

Exclusive: Humans Placed in Suspended Animation for the First Time

November 21, 2019

(New Scientist) – Doctors have placed humans in suspended animation for the first time, as part of a trial in the US that aims to make it possible to fix traumatic injuries that would otherwise cause death. Samuel Tisherman, at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, told New Scientist that his team of medics had placed at least one patient in suspended animation, calling it “a little surreal” when they first did it. He wouldn’t reveal how many people had survived as a result.

Across Several Continents, Infecting Mosquitoes with Bacteria Results in Dramatic Drops in Dengue Illness, Trials Show

November 21, 2019

(STAT News) – The number of people infected by dengue and at least one related virus has plunged in places where mosquitoes bred to be infected with a bacterium called Wolbachia have been released and have established themselves, scientists reported Thursday. The results, from Australia, Indonesia, and Brazil, are dramatic, with a 76% drop in dengue infections in the part of Indonesia where the mosquitoes were released. In Brazil, treated neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro saw rates of dengue infections fall by 70%. Infections with chikungunya, which is spread by the same mosquitoes, were 75% lower there — in a year when the disease was at epidemic levels elsewhere in the area.

Selecting Embryos for IQ, Height Not Currently Practical: Study

November 21, 2019

(The Scientist) – espite advances in understanding the combined effects of multiple genes on complex traits in humans, efforts to choose embryos based on the likelihood of their carrying such traits would be unlikely to meet with much success, researchers report today (November 21) in Cell. It has been possible for decades for would-be parents to conceive embryos through in vitro fertilization, then have the embryos tested for particular disease-causing gene variants, a procedure called preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). 

No Safety Switch: How Lax Oversight of Electronic Health Records Puts Patients at Risk

November 21, 2019

(Kaiser Health News) – The experts at that September 2009 meeting, mainly members of the American Medical Informatics Association, or AMIA, agreed that safety should be a top priority as federal officials poured more than $30 billion into subsidies to wire up medical offices and hospitals nationwide. The group envisioned creating a national databank to track reports of deaths, injuries and near misses linked to issues with the new technology. It never happened.

Generic-Drug Approvals Soar, But Patients Still Go Without

November 20, 2019

(The Wall Street Journal) – Record numbers of generic drugs for cancer, heart ailments and other conditions have received U.S. approval in recent years, raising hopes that the new competition would reduce high drug costs. But many of the lower-price medicines haven’t hit the market, a Wall Street Journal review found. Drug-industry officials and other researchers say delays in releasing generic drugs sometimes stem from businesses changing their strategies. But they mostly blame protracted legal tie-ups, such as brand-name drugmakers aggressively defending their products by filing additional patents and suing generic-drug companies.

Chinese Infiltration of US Labs Caught Science Agencies Off Guard

November 20, 2019

(Science) – US science agencies’ slow response to the threat posed by China’s talent-recruitment programmes has allowed China to divert US government funds and private-sector technology to further its military and economic goals, a US Senate panel has found.  Its report, which lawmakers discussed at a hearing on 19 November, describes China’s efforts to infiltrate US research institutions in new detail — including contract provisions requiring participating scientists to work on behalf of China. The analysis focused on China’s Thousand Talents Plan, the most prestigious of more than 200 programmes that are designed to recruit leading academics and promote domestic research.

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