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Health Highlights: July 27, 2020

Last Updated: July 27, 2020.

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

FDA Warns Again About Dangers of Methanol-Based Hand Sanitizers

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers not to use alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing methanol, or wood alcohol, which is used in fuel and antifreeze and is toxic if absorbed through the skin or life-threatening if ingested.

The FDA has acted to prevent these products from coming into the country and working with manufacturers to recall products.

Also, a warning letter was sent to Eskbiochem S.A. de C.V. for distributing a methanol-containing product with unapproved claims -- including falsely claiming that it has FDA approval.

Methanol exposure can cause nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death.

"Practicing good hand hygiene, which includes using alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available, is an important public health tool for all Americans to employ," FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said in a statement.

However, he added, "consumers must also be vigilant about which hand sanitizers they use, and for their health and safety we urge consumers to immediately stop using all hand sanitizers on the FDA's list of dangerous hand sanitizer products."

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COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate Now in Final Phase Testing

A vaccine developed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc, has entered the final phase of testing, the Associated Press reported Monday.

To see if the vaccine will protect people from the virus, 30,000 volunteers will randomly receive the two doses of the vaccine or a placebo.

The participants will be followed to see which group gets infected.

"Unfortunately for the United States of America, we have plenty of infections right now," NIH's Dr. Anthony Fauci told the AP.

According to Moderna, vaccination has been tried out in Savannah, Ga. and will be given in more than 80 sites around the country.

This is only one of the many vaccines under development worldwide. Other trials are underway in China and Britain, and final tests have started in Brazil and other countries.

Before a vaccine can be approved in the U.S. it must be tested here. Through fall, the COVID-19 Prevention Network will test new vaccines -- each with 30,000 volunteers, the AP notes.

These tests will determine which vaccine works best and is safest. Vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and Novavax and Pfizer Inc. are all slated for testing.

It usually takes years to develop a new vaccine, but specialists are racing to find an effective vaccine that can curb the pandemic.

"We all feel so helpless right now. There's very little that we can do to combat this virus. And being able to participate in this trial has given me a sense of, that I'm doing something," trial volunteer Jennifer Haller of Seattle told the AP. "Be prepared for a lot of questions from your friends and family about how it's going, and a lot of thank-you's."

In early trials the vaccine boosted the immune system in ways expected to be protective. Some side effects, such as a brief fever, chills and pain at the injection site were seen. These findings were also seen in the other vaccines scheduled for testing.

If the vaccine passes the test, it will be months before it can reach the general public.

The first doses will be most likely, be given to people at highest risk from the virus, the AP said.

"We're optimistic, cautiously optimistic" that the vaccine will work and that "toward the end of the year" data will prove it, Dr. Stephen Hoge, president of Massachusetts-based Moderna, told a House subcommittee last week, the AP reported.

"I don't know what the chances are that this is the exact right vaccine. But thank goodness that there are so many others out there battling this right now," Haller said.

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U.S. National Security Adviser Infected With COVID-19

National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien has tested positive for COVID-19, the Associated Press reported Monday.

O'Brien is the highest-rankling Trump official to come down with the virus.

Two people who know the situation spoke to the AP anonymously because they weren't authorized to discuss it.

O'Brien has mild symptoms and "has been self-isolating and working from a secure location off site." the White House said.

The President and Vice President are not at risk of being exposed to the virus, and the "work of the National Security Council continues uninterrupted," the White House told the AP.

The news was first reported by Bloomberg News, which said O'Brien was infected at a family event, the AP says.

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CDC to Address Inequalities in COVID-19 Reporting

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to take steps to improve how they collect COVID-19 data for Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans, the Associated Press reports.

The effect of the virus on these groups is worse not because of some biological reason, but rather because of social conditions that make exposure more likely and more severe.

"To just name racial and ethnic groups without contextualizing what contributes to the risk has the potential to be stigmatizing and victimizing," the CDC's chief health equity officer for the coronavirus response Leandris Liburd, told the AP.

According to the CDC, American Indians and Native Alaskans are hospitalized five times more than whites and Blacks and Hispanics at more than four times than whites.

Blacks make up 25% of COVID-19 deaths and Hispanics 24%, while whites make up 35%.

On Friday, the CDC issued a racial equity strategy that will account for how COVID-19 affects minorities and improve testing, contact tracing, isolating and treating minorities, the AP reports.

This is the first concrete step the CDC has taken to deal with these problems even though they have been aware of them for months, the AP said.

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McDonald's Now Requires Face Masks

You'll now have to wear a face mask if you want to get a Happy Meal at McDonald's, according to CBS News.

To help curb the spread of the pandemic coronavirus the fast food chain said that customers will have wear face masks inside their U.S. restaurants.

The chain "will ask all customers to wear face coverings when entering our U.S. restaurants effective August 1," McDonald's said in a statement.

Most of McDonald's are in areas that require masks for workers and customers, but "it's important we protect the safety of all employees and customers," McDonald's USA President Joe Erlinger and National Franchise Leadership Alliance Chair Mark Salebra, said in the press release.

Masks will be available to customers who walk into McDonald's without one. If they decline, they will have to wait for their order in a pick-up area at a safe distance from others, CBS reported.

McDonald's will delay opening dining areas for another 30 days, extending a reopening plan that was enacted at the end of June.

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