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Health Highlights: April 24, 2019

Last Updated: April 24, 2019.

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

NYC Measles Cases Increase to 390

The number of measles cases in New York City has risen to 390, the health department said Wednesday.

Of those cases, 323 (83%) have been in Williamsburg (ZIP codes 11205, 11206, 11211, 11249), where an emergency order for people to be vaccinated against measles has been in place since April 12.

Since the city last week began issuing summonses for not complying with the order, 12 people have received summonses. They face a $1,000 fine if the summons is upheld at a hearing, and a $2,000 fine for failure to respond to the summons or appear at the hearing.

Two of the patients have been pregnant women.

"We have now identified two expectant mothers who have contracted measles. These cases are stark reminders of why New Yorkers must get vaccinated against the measles as soon as possible," Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said in a statement.

"When we do not get vaccinated, we put our friends, our relatives, our neighbors, our classmates and other fellow New Yorkers at risk. We urgently repeat our plea to every New Yorker, especially those in the affected areas -- unless you have a medical condition that prohibits you from doing so, please get vaccinated," Barbot said.

"Currently, the outbreak remains intensely focused in Williamsburg where vaccination rates must continue to improve. While we've seen a few cases in people out of the Orthodox Jewish community, all but one of these individuals were exposed in Williamsburg and Borough Park and none of these have resulted in sustained transmission, mainly due to the power of herd immunity afforded by the high vaccination rates outside of the Williamsburg epicenter of this outbreak," Deputy Health Commissioner Dr. Demetre Daskalakis said in a statement.

"There's no reason why a healthy child or adult should not be vaccinated against measles. We need to make sure that everyone who can get vaccinated, who doesn't know their immunity status or vaccination history, gets the vaccine to protect themselves and those around them that can't," Daskalakis said.

Nationwide, there have been 626 confirmed measles cases in 22 states so far this year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the AP reported.

That's just 42 fewer than the 2014 record of 667 cases, the highest number recorded since measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000.

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U.S. Air Pollution Worsening Under Trump: Report

Air pollution in the United States has worsened during the Trump administration, the American Lung Association's annual State of the Air report says.

More than 141 million Americans -- 4 in 10 -- live in counties with air that has unhealthy levels of particle pollution or ozone, an increase of 7.2 million from last year's report, CNN reported.

From 2015 to 2017, the U.S. recorded more days than ever with hazardous air quality, according to the report released Wednesday.

The Trump administration has targeted air pollution laws and slashed the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency, CNN reported.

"We have a long list of things we are concerned about this administration doing," said report author Janice Nolen, the American Lung Association's assistant vice president of national policy.

"We have to keep cleaning up the air, and we have to deal with climate change first and foremost, especially after seeing the harm of what is happening now," added Nolen, CNN reported.

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Washington State Bill Limits Measles Vaccine Exemptions

A bill to limit measles vaccine exemptions for children was passed by Washington state lawmakers on Tuesday.

The legislation now goes to Gov. Jay Inslee, who has expressed support for limiting exemptions.

The bill removes parents' ability to get an exemption for personal or philosophical reasons, but religious and medical exemptions will remain, the Associated Press reported.

Washington state has had 74 cases of measles this year. Most of those have occurred in one county and were among children 10 or younger who weren't immunized.

Nationwide, there have been 626 confirmed measles cases in 22 states so far this year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the AP reported.

That's just 42 fewer than the 2014 record of 667 cases, the highest number recorded since measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000.

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Target Recalls Nearly Half a Million Wooden Toys for Choking Danger

About 495,000 Bullseye's Playground wooden toy vehicles have been recalled by Target because the wheels can come off and pose a choking hazard to children, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said Tuesday.

The toys were sold individually in stores and as an 8-pack assortment online. They include a caboose, Santa in sleigh, ice cream truck/food truck, train, police car, fire truck, taxi, and a digger truck.

There have been four reports of the wheels coming off the toys. No injuries have been reported, according to the CPSC.

It advised consumers to immediately take the recalled toys away from children and return them to any Target store for a full refund.

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Medicaid Expansion Benefits Black Newborns: Study

The expansion of the Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act has narrowed the gap in rates of premature birth and low birth weight between black and white infants born in the United States, a new study finds.

Both conditions can significantly increase an infant's risk of death, CNN reported.

Compared to white infants, black infants are about 1.5 times more likely to be born prematurely and about two times more likely to have low birth weight.

However, that racial gap narrowed between 2011 and 2016 in the 18 states that expanded Medicaid, according to the study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"The effect size for black infants in expansion states was between 5% and 15%," senior study author J. Mick Tilford, chair of health policy and management at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, told CNN.

"It's one more piece of the puzzle that points to the gains in health from Medicaid expansion, especially to certain populations," Tilford said.

"We believe that these findings should be considered in policymakers' calculus of whether to expand Medicaid or not," he told CNN.


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