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Health Highlights: Jan. 15, 2019

Last Updated: January 15, 2019.

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

Congo Ebola Outbreak Now 2nd Worst in History

There have been 600 confirmed cases of Ebola and 347 confirmed deaths since early August in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, making it the second-largest and second deadliest outbreak of the disease in history.

Since the ongoing outbreak was declared on Aug. 1, Ebola symptoms have been reported in 649 people in the northeastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, with 600 of those cases confirmed as Ebola, the country's health ministry said Monday night, ABC News reported.

The fatality rate in the outbreak is about 61 percent. There have been 347 confirmed deaths from Ebola and 49 probable Ebola deaths, according to the ministry.

On average, about half of all Ebola patients die, but death rates have ranged from 25 to 90 percent in past outbreaks, according to the World Health Organization, ABC News reported.

The worst Ebola outbreak occurred in West Africa in 2014-16. There were 28,652 people infected and 11,325 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


FDA to Resume Inspections of Riskier Foods

Routine inspections of riskier foods will resume as early as Tuesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

There was a brief halt in inspections of foods such as produce, infant formula and cheeses due to the partial government shutdown, the Associated Press reported.

The FDA is bringing back about 150 unpaid employees for the inspections of riskier foods, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Monday.

Such foods account for about one-third of the FDA's approximately 8,400 routine inspections of packaged foods and produce a year. Inspections of meat, poultry and processed eggs are handled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and have continued during the shutdown, AP reported.


New Birth Control Skin Patch Being Developed

A skin patch that provides a month's worth of birth control for women is being developed by U.S. researchers.

The patch, which can be pressed into an arm or leg, has dissolvable microneedles that implant into the skin and slowly dissolve over time, delivering a contraceptive hormone, NBC News reported.

No doctor visit is needed, according to the Georgia Tech team. Their research was published Jan. 14 in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.

"There is a lot of interest in providing more options for long-acting contraceptives," Mark Prausnitz, a professor in the bioengineering program, said in a statement, NBC News reported.

"Our goal is for women to be able to self-administer long-acting contraceptives with the microneedle patch that would be applied for five seconds just once a month," he explained.

The patch is based on a similar approach developed at Georgia Tech for needle-free vaccination, NBC News reported.

In rats, the press-on patch delivered an even flow of a month's worth of birth control hormone, according to the researchers. It's effectiveness in people hasn't been tested, but animal tests don't always pan out in humans.

The university is working with a spin-off company called Micron Biomedical to further develop the patch, Prausnitz said.


U.S. DNA Pioneer and Nobel Prize Winner Loses Lab Honors Due to Racist Comments

Racist comments have resulted in Nobel Prize-winning American scientist and DNA pioneer James Watson losing his honorary titles at the laboratory he once led.

Watson, 90, helped discover the double-helix structure of DNA in the 1950s.

In a PBS documentary that aired Jan. 2, he repeated previous claims that genes are responsible for differences in intelligence between white and black people in IQ tests, CNN reported.

Watson was director of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on New York's Long Island from 1968 to 1993. In a statement, the laboratory said it "unequivocally rejects the unsubstantiated and reckless personal opinions Dr. James D. Watson expressed," and that his statements were "reprehensible [and] unsupported by science.

The laboratory "condemns the misuse of science to justify prejudice," the statement said.


Dog Food Recalled Due to Salmonella Contamination

One lot of A+ Answers Straight Beef Formula for Dogs has been recalled in Nebraska due to possible salmonella contamination, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

The recall is for lot 2018 20/08 20. There is no nationwide recall.

The recalled dog food poses a serious health risk to both dogs and people, the FDA warned.

If you bought the recalled dog food, throw it away in a secure container where other animals, including wildlife, cannot get at it. If you've had this product in your homes, clean fridges/freezers where it was stored, and clean and disinfect all bowls, utensils, food prep surfaces, pet bedding, toys, floors, and any other surfaces that the food or pet may have had contact with, the FDA advised.

Clean up the pet's feces in yards or parks where people or other animals may be exposed to it.

Anyone with symptoms of salmonella infection -- such as diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps -- should see a health care provider. Take your pet to a veterinarian if it has symptoms of salmonella infection, which can include vomiting, diarrhea (which may be bloody), fever, loss of appetite and/or decreased activity levels.

Most people recover from salmonella infection without treatment, but in some cases, the diarrhea may be so severe that patients need to be hospitalized, the FDA said.

People especially at risk from salmonella infection include those who are very young, very old, or have a weak immune system.

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