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Health Highlights: March 21, 2017

Last Updated: March 21, 2017.

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

U.S. Infant Death Rate at New Low

The infant death rate in the United States recently fell to a new low, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

The rate dropped from 6.86 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2005 to 5.82 per 1,000 in 2014, a 15 percent decrease, CNN reported.

There were declines in the rates of four of the five leading cause of infant death. There was an 11 percent fall in congenital malformations (the primary cause of infant death), a 7 percent decrease in deaths due to maternal complications, an 8 percent fall in deaths from short gestation and low birthweight, and a 29 percent decrease in cases of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

However, the CDC said deaths from accidental injuries rose from 26.2 per 1,000 live births in 2005 to 29.2 per 1,000 in 2014, CNN reported.

One reason for the overall decline in infant deaths is a reduction in medically unnecessary labor, according to Dr. Paul Jarris, chief medical officer for the March of Dimes.

"These are when a woman is induced to cause labor when there is no medical indication. They were very common around 2003 to 2005, and we have done a good job as a nation of reducing these dramatically so that women aren't delivering early when there's no need," he told CNN.

Infant death rates fell in two-thirds of states and the District of Columbia, and no state had a statistically significant increase. Rates fell 11 percent or more in Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

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Former NFL player Dwight Clark Has ALS

Former NFL player Dwight Clark says he has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) -- also known as Lou Gehrig's disease -- and he believes football caused the condition.

The former 49ers wide receiver revealed the diagnosis on social media Sunday. He said he first noticed symptoms in September 2015 and underwent months of tests and treatment before finding out he had the disease, formally known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), CBS News reported.

Clark suspects his ALS was linked to football. He was selected in the 1979 draft and played eight seasons for the 49ers.

"I've been asked if playing football caused this. I don't know for sure. But I certainly suspect it did," Clark wrote, CNN reported. "And I encourage the NFLPA and the NFL to continue working together in their efforts to make the game of football safer, especially as it relates to head trauma."

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Houston Officials Considering Gene-Modified Mosquitoes to Fight Zika

Genetically modified mosquitoes could be used to help combat the Zika virus in Houston, officials say.

The mosquitoes are designed to produce offspring that die. Harris County officials are negotiating with British biotech company Oxitec to release the mosquitoes, according to The Houston Chronicle, the Associated Press reported.

No cases of local transmission of Zika have been documented in the Houston area. In Texas, the only homegrown cases of Zika have been in Cameron County, on the border with Mexico.

Oxitec's genetically modified mosquitoes have never been tested in the United States. A plan for a field test in a Florida Keys suburb was scrapped due to residents' concerns, the AP reported.

If Oxitec wants to conduct testing in Harris County, the company would first have to submit an environmental assessment to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the agency said.


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