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Health Highlights: July 17, 2019

Last Updated: July 17, 2019.

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

U.S. Drug OD Deaths Fall for First Time in Three Decades

For the first time in three decades, drug overdose deaths in the United States fell last year, preliminary federal government data suggests.

Provisional numbers released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show nearly 68,000 drug overdose deaths in 2018, and the agency expects that even if the final confirmed number is higher, it will be below 69,000, the Associated Press reported.

Overdose deaths have risen each year since 1990, reaching a peak of 70,000 in 2017.

The reason for the decline in 2018 was fewer deaths from heroin and prescription painkillers, but there were continuing increases in overdose deaths involving fentanyl, cocaine and psychostimulants like methamphetamines, the AP reported.

While a decline or stabilization in overdose deaths would be welcomed, the U.S. drug overdose death rate remains about seven times higher than a generation ago.

"We're still in a pretty sad situation that we need to address," Rebecca Haffajee, a University of Michigan researcher, told the AP.

The current drug overdose crisis in the U.S. has been the deadliest in the nation's history, with overdose deaths increasing by 5,000 or more a year from 2014 to 2017.

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Ground Bison Linked to E. Coli Outbreak in 7 States: CDC

An E. coli outbreak in the United States that's linked to ground bison produced by Northfork Bison Distributions, Inc. of Canada is being investigated by federal and state officials.

There have been 21 cases of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O103 and O121 infections in seven states (CT, FL, MI, MO, NJ, NY, PA) and eight people have been hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

No deaths have been reported.

On July 16, 2019, Northfork Bison Distributions recalled ground bison produced between February 22, 2019, and April 30, 2019. It was sold to distributors as ground bison and bison patties, referred to as Bison Burgers and/or Buffalo Burgers. Recalled ground bison was also sold to retailers in 4-ounce burger patties, the CDC said.

People get sick from Shiga toxin-producing E. coli an average of 3 to 4 days after swallowing the germ. Most people get diarrhea (often bloody), severe stomach cramps, and vomiting.

While most people recover within a week, some illnesses can last longer and be more severe, the CDC said.

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Growers Express Expands Recall of Fresh Vegetable Products

A recall of fresh vegetable products that may be contaminated with listeria has been expanded, Growers Express says.

The recall now also includes: 2-lb packages of Green Giant fresh Brussels sprouts with a pack data of 6/28/2019, Big Y; 3-lb packages of Growers Express cauliflower florets with a best by date of 7/11/2019, Native Maine; 5-lb packages of Peak green beans with a pack date of 6/25/201, Rudy Robinson; and 3-lb packages of cauliflower florets with a pack date of 6/28/2019, Rudy Robinson.

The initial recall was announced on July 1, 2019.

The recalled products are from a Growers Express production facility in Biddeford, Maine and were distributed to stores in Massachusetts and Maine. Growers Express is no longer obtaining vegetables from the suspected cause of the contamination.

To date, no illnesses linked to the recalled products have been reported, according to the company.

Listeria can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems, and listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths in pregnant women.

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WHO Meeting on Congo Ebola Outbreak

A meeting to decide whether the Ebola outbreak in Congo should be declared an international emergency will be held Wednesday by the World Health Organization.

The meeting was called after the deadly infectious disease this week spread to Goma, which is the largest city in eastern Congo and on the border with Rwanda, the Associated Press reported.

The spread of Ebola to the city of more than 2 million people was described as a potential "game-changer," by WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. However, Congo's health minister, Dr. Oly Ilunga, said the situation was "not a humanitarian crisis."

Earlier this week, a preacher with Ebola arrived by bus in Goma. He has since died, WHO confirmed.

Wednesday's meeting is the fourth time the WHO has convened experts to assess the outbreak. So far, they have declined to declare it an international emergency, which could trigger more international attention and aid, the AP reported.

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Planned Parenthood to Defy Trump Administration Rule on Abortion Referrals

Planned Parenthood says it will defy the Trump administration's ban on federally-funded family planning clinics referring women for abortions.

"We are not going to comply with a regulation that would require health care providers to not give full information to their patients," Jacqueline Ayers, the group's top lobbyist, told the Associated Press Tuesday.

"We believe as a health care provider it is wrong to withhold health care information from patients," she explained.

On Monday, the Department of Health and Human Services said it will start enforcing the ban on abortion referrals, along with a rule requiring family planning clinics to maintain separate finances from facilities that provide abortions, the AP reported.

The rule is being challenged in federal court, but the Trump administration says there is currently no legal obstacle to enforcing it.

The American Medical Association and other groups warn that the government's new restrictions could result in many low-income women losing access to basic services like birth control, the AP reported.

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Man's Award in Roundup Cancer Case Slashed by Judge

A man who was awarded $80.27 million in a lawsuit alleging the Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller caused his cancer had that amount cut by $55 million by a judge.

In March, federal jurors in California sided with Edwin Hardeman, who was the first cancer patient to take Monsanto to federal trial over Roundup. The jurors awarded him $5.27 million in compensatory damages for his pain and suffering, and $75 million in punitive damages to punish Monsanto, CNN reported.

But on Monday, Judge Vince Chhabria said the punitive award was too much and reduced it to $20 million, for a total award of about $25.3 million.

Despite Chhabria's decision to slash the punitive award, Monsanto said it plans to appeal.

More than 11,000 plaintiffs in the U.S. are suing Monsanto, saying Roundup caused non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, CNN reported.

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Controversial Suicide Scene Removed From '13 Reasons Why'

A controversial suicide scene has been removed from the season one finale of the show "13 Reasons Why," Netflix says.

The scene in the episode that originally premiered two years ago showed character Hannah cutting her wrist with a razor blade before bleeding out in a bathtub, NBC News reported.

The scene triggered backlash, with critics saying it may have contributed to copycat suicides among teens.

Instead of showing Hannah's suicide, she is now shown staring at her reflection in the mirror. The next scene shows Hannah's parents' reaction to her suicide, NBC News reported.

"We've heard from many young people that '13 Reasons Why' encouraged them to start conversations about difficult issues like depression and suicide and get help -- often for the first time," Netflix said in a statement Monday.

"As we prepare to launch season three later this summer, we've been mindful about the ongoing debate around the show. So on the advice of medical experts, including Dr. Christine Moutier, Chief Medical Officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, we've decided with creator Brian Yorkey and the producers to edit the scene in which Hannah takes her own life from season one."


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