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Health Highlights: Feb. 20, 2019

Last Updated: February 20, 2019.

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

FDA Head Says Feds May Intervene to Cut Vaccine Exemptions for Kids

The U.S. government may have to take steps to reduce vaccine exemptions for children if states don't do it, the head of the Food and Drug Administration suggested. His comments come as measles outbreaks rage in a number of states.

Those outbreaks could have been prevented if children had all been vaccinated. But nearly all states allow kids to attend school even if their "anti-vax" parents opt out of inoculation programs, CNN reported.

"Some states are engaging in such wide exemptions that they're creating the opportunity for outbreaks on a scale that is going to have national implications," FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said.

If "certain states continue down the path that they're on, I think they're going to force the hand of the federal health agencies," he told CNN.

At least 67 people have been sickened in a measles outbreak in Washington and three neighboring states. It began in Washington, where vaccine exemptions are especially popular. New York state is struggling with its largest measles outbreak in decades. It began in October and there have been more than 200 cases so far.

The federal government could "mandate certain rules about what is and isn't permissible when it comes to allowing people to have exemptions," Gottlieb told CNN.

He expressed hope that the current measles outbreak would make state officials realize that they need to tighten vaccine exemptions for children.

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New Test Quickly Diagnoses Sepsis

A test that can quickly diagnose dangerous sepsis infections in the blood has been developed by researchers.

Sepsis is a potentially deadly complication of infection. It is difficult to diagnose because initial symptoms are similar to gastroenteritis, flu or a chest infection.

The experimental microelectrode device created by scientists at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland analyzes a patient's blood and provides results as quickly as 2.5 minutes. Current testing methods for sepsis can take up to 72 hours, CNN reported.

Sepsis can be treated with antibiotics if diagnosed early, but can lead to organ failure and death if left untreated. Every hour that it takes to diagnose and treat sepsis increases the risk of death.

The research was published in the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics.

"The implications for this are massive, and the ability to give the right antibiotic at the right time to the right patient is extraordinary," said study author Dr. David Alcorn, Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, Scotland, CNN reported.

About 6 million people worldwide die from sepsis every year.

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New Kaiser Permanente Medical School to Waive Tuition for First Five Classes of Students

A new medical school to be opened by California-based health system Kaiser Permanente will waive tuition for all students in its first five graduating classes.

This is being done to make it easier for people with lower incomes to go to medical school and to discourage students from bypassing lower-paid specialties like family medicine because they're burdened with high levels of debt, The New York Times reported.

"Even middle-class families are finding medical school hard to pay for," said Mark Schuster, the founding dean and chief executive of the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine. "We're going to see how this plays out and learn from it."

Kaiser's new medical school will be one of only a few in the United States not connected to a university. Kaiser has its own hospitals, clinics, doctors and insurance plan.

Last year, the New York University School of Medicine said it would eliminate tuition for all current and future students, The Times reported.

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Cereals Recalled Due to Undeclared Gluten

Certain batches of EnviroKidz Choco Chimps, Gorilla Munch and Jungle Munch cereals are being recalled by Nature's Path Foods because they may contain undeclared gluten (wheat and barley).

People who have a wheat allergy, celiac disease or sensitivity to gluten and wheat should not consume the cereals due to potential harm to their health.

The products were sold in the United States (10-oz packages) and Canada (284-gram packages).

For more information, call Nature's Path Consumer Services at 1-866-880-7284, Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. PST

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Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Raw Turkey Products Now at 279 Cases: CDC

Sixty-three more cases of illness in a salmonella outbreak linked to raw turkey products have been reported since Dec. 21, 2018, bringing the total number to 279, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says in an update.

Cases have been reported in 41 states and the District of Columbia, and 107 people have been hospitalized. One death was previously reported in California.

The outbreak strain of salmonella has been identified in various raw turkey products, including ground turkey and turkey patties, and in raw turkey pet food and live turkeys, indicating it might be widespread in the turkey industry, the CDC said.

A single, common supplier of raw turkey products or of live turkeys has not been identified that could account for the whole outbreak. The outbreak strain could be present in many facilities and suppliers, meaning many brands and types of foods containing raw turkey could be affected.

Ill people infected with the same salmonella strain have been reported in Canada, health officials say.

The investigation is ongoing and more information will be provided as it becomes available, the CDC said.

It said it is not advising consumers to avoid eating properly cooked turkey products, or for retailers to stop selling raw turkey products.

The CDC said consumers should always handle raw turkey carefully and cook it thoroughly to prevent food poisoning. The agency does not recommend feeding raw turkey to pets.

People get sick from salmonella 12 to 72 hours after swallowing the germ and develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. Most people recover within a week, but some illnesses can last longer and be more severe, the CDC said.


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