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Health Highlights: Jan. 29, 2020

Last Updated: January 29, 2020.

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

Flight Brings U.S. Citizens Home From Wuhan, China

A flight carrying U.S. citizens from Wuhan -- the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in China -- arrived at March Air Reserve Base in California on Wednesday morning and was met by medical officers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The 210 passengers were screened, monitored and evaluated by medical personnel at every stage of their journey, including before takeoff, during the flight, during a refueling in Anchorage, Alaska, and upon arrival, the CDC said.

Risk assessments -- including temperature checks and observing for respiratory symptoms -- have been conducted by CDC staff to check the health of each passenger, according to the agency.

It said it will work with the California Department of Public Health and Riverside County Public Health to transport any passengers with symptoms of coronavirus infection to a hospital for further evaluation.

Passengers without symptoms will be asked to stay in base housing so that CDC medical officers can perform more thorough screening and get a better idea of each person's exposure to the coronavirus, the CDC said.

At this time, the general public's risk of coronavirus exposure is low, according to the agency. It said it's taking these steps to assess and care for the returning Americans in order to protect them and others.

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Bats Are Thought to Be Coronavirus Source, and Scientists Think They Know Why

Bats' immune systems may protect them from viruses that cause diseases in people, new research suggests.

If suspicions that bats are the source of the coronavirus outbreak that began in China and has spread to other countries, it would be the latest disease-causing virus to make its way from bats to people.

"We don't know the source yet, but there's pretty strong evidence that this is a bat origin coronavirus," Dr. Peter Daszak told The New York Times.

The president of EcoHealth Alliance has spent 15 years in China studying diseases that jump from animals to people.

The SARS and MERS epidemics were caused by bat coronaviruses, as was a devastating viral epidemic in pigs, according to The Times.

Bats are a natural reservoir for the Marburg, Nipah and Hendra viruses, which have caused human disease and outbreaks, and are believed to be the natural reservoir for the Ebola virus.

Scientists are striving to understand how bats can carry so many viruses and still survive, and evidence suggests that this is possible due to immune system changes triggered by bats' evolutionary adaptations to flight, The Times reported.

Bats can carry many viruses and still ward off illness, perhaps because over time they lost genes responsible for the immune-system response that is a root cause of illness in so many other animals, researchers say.

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FDA Tells Purell Maker to Stop Making False Claims

The maker of Purell hand sanitizers has been warned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to stop claiming that the products can protect people from infections and illnesses.

The agency warned Gojo Industries that unsubstantiated claims that Purell can help prevent illnesses such as the flu, Ebola virus, norovirus and the MRSA superbug violate federal laws, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Purell will be reclassified as an unapproved drug, rather than an over-the-counter product, the FDA said.

In its warning letter to Gojo, the FDA made note of unproven claims on the company's websites and social media accounts, including "Purell Products are proven to reduce absenteeism" and Purell "kills more than 99.99 percent of the most common germs that may cause illness in a healthcare setting, including MRSA," The Times reported.

The agency also criticized Gojo's "Frequently Asked Questions," which it said suggested that because Purell is made with ethyl alcohol, it might be effective against viruses like Ebola, norovirus and influenza.


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