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Health Highlights: Aug. 18, 2020

Last Updated: August 18, 2020.

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

California Has First Plague Case in Five Years

California's first case of plague in five years has been confirmed by health officials.

The patient, a resident of South Lake Tahoe, is receiving medical care while recovering at home, CBS News reported. Plague is easily treated with antibiotics if diagnosed early.

The patient is believed to have been bitten by an infected flea while walking a dog along the Truckee River corridor or in the Tahoe Keys area on Tahoe's south shore, according to health officials.

Fleas can acquire plague bacteria from infected chipmunks, squirrels and other wild rodents, and dogs and cats can also carry infected fleas, CBS News reported.

California's last confirmed plague cases were in 2015. Both patients were treated and recovered.

"It's important that individuals take precautions for themselves and their pets when outdoors, especially while walking, hiking and/or camping in areas where wild rodents are present," said El Dorado County Public Health Officer, Dr. Nancy Williams, CBS News reported. "Human cases of plague are extremely rare but can be very serious."

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Coronavirus Test Could Give Inaccurate Results

A widely used coronavirus test could produce inaccurate results due to issues with the equipment and software used to run the test, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned Monday.

The agency issued the alert about Thermo Fisher's TaqPath genetic test, the Associated Press reported.

The company is working with the FDA "to make sure that laboratory personnel understand the need for strict adherence to the instructions for use," according to a spokeswoman for Thermo Fisher.

The FDA didn't reveal how many inaccurate test results there have been, the AP reported.

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Judge Blocks Trump's Removal of Health Care Protections for Transgender People

A new Trump administration rule that would remove health care protections for transgender people has been blocked by a federal judge.

The rule was to take effect Tuesday, but the preliminary injunction from U.S. District Court Judge Frederic Block in Brooklyn prevents the administration from enforcing the rule until the case can be heard and decided in court, the Associated Press reported.

Block said he believed the Trump administration's transgender rule is invalid after the Supreme Court's June ruling on another case, the AP reported.

In that case, the Supreme Court forbid sex discrimination against LGBT people in the workplace, the AP reported.

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Coronavirus Pandemic's Impact on Homeless People in U.S. Not As Bad as Feared

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on homeless people in the United States hasn't been as severe as feared, data show.

For example, just over 1,200 of the estimated 66,000 homeless people in Los Angeles have been diagnosed with the virus, along with more than 200 of the estimated 8,000 homeless people in San Francisco, the Associated Press reported.

In Washington State's King County, which includes Seattle, more than 400 of an estimated 12,000 homeless residents have been infected with the virus.

In Arizona's Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, nearly 500 of about 7,400 homeless people have tested positive, including nine who died, the AP reported.

In New York City, homeless people have accounted for more than 1,400 infections and 104 deaths among more than 226,000 positive cases and 19,000 deaths.

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1st Post-Lockdown Cruise Departs From Italy

The first Mediterranean cruise from Italy after that country's pandemic lockdown left Genoa on Sunday evening.

Before boarding the MSC Grandiosa for the seven-night cruise, passengers had their temperatures checked and took COVID-19 tests, and anyone who tested positive for the virus, or had a fever or other COVID-19 symptoms was denied boarding, the Associated Press reported.

During the cruise, passengers must wear face masks in elevators and other areas where it's not possible to social distance. The crew was quarantined before the start of the cruise.

When the Italian government gave approval earlier this month for cruises to resume, it limited ships to 70% of capacity, the AP reported.

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Neck Gaiters 'Worse Than Nothing' in Preventing Coronavirus Spread

Thin, stretchy neck gaiters are "worse than nothing" when it comes to preventing the spread of the coronavirus, according to researchers.

The Duke University team said using a neck gaiter as a face covering could actually spread the virus further than using no face covering at all, CBS News reported.

The researchers tested a common type of neck gaiter made of thin, stretchy polyester. Neck gaiters are worn around the neck and can be pulled up to cover the mouth and nose.

"The neck gaiter that we tested did essentially nothing, and worse than nothing, because it appeared to make large droplets into small droplets," study co-author Isaac Henrion told CBS News.

Instead of stopping droplets that can contain the coronavirus from escaping into the air, the neck gaiter appeared to turn large droplets into smaller ones that can linger in the air, the researchers found.

They said more testing is needed because some gaiters might work better than others, depending on how they're made, CBS News reported.


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