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Donald C Ohuoha, M.D., M.P.H.
Donald C Ohuoha, M.D., M.P.H.
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News for Healthier Living

Health Highlights: June 6, 2019

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

Government to List 400 Troubled Nursing Homes

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid said Wednesday that they will post a list of some 400 substandard nursing homes.

The announcement came days after Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., found that poor conditions in 400 nursing homes were no different than those in the 80 poor-performing homes already identified and being monitored by the government, the Associated Press reported.

Chief medical officer of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, Dr. Kate Goodrich, told the AP that the list would posted on the Internet, but didn't say when.

In a press release, Casey applauded the intention to post the list, but work is needed to ensure the government is acting to improve poor-performing nursing homes.

Across the country, more than 1 million Americans live in nursing homes. In all there are more than 15,700 homes. Troubled facilities fall under the government's Special Focus Facility program, which includes about 3% of all the homes, the AP reported.

Budget cuts have reduced the amount of money available to monitor these facilities. Only enough funds exist to keep track of 88, the AP noted.

But 400 are candidates for the program, the agency says.

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U.S. Measles Cases Pass 1,000: CDC

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now pegs the number of measles cases at over 1,000 -- the most in 27 years.

So far this year, the CDC has counted 1,001 cases, with many occurring among New York City's Orthodox Jewish community, the Associated Press reported.

The last time America saw this many cases was in 1992 when over 2,000 cases were reported by that year's end.

Before a vaccine was available in the 1960s measles was common. But the vaccine made the disease rare in the U.S. Ten years ago there were less than 100 cases a year, the AP said.

Although most Americans are vaccinated for measles, outbreaks are now often occurring in communities where "anti-vaxxer" parents have refused to have their kids receive vaccines.

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Trump Administration Curbs Fetal Tissue Research

On Wednesday the Trump Administration stopped government scientists from using fetal tissue for medical research.

The administration also pulled a multi-million-dollar contract from the University of California at San Francisco, which was using fetal tissue to test new treatments for HIV, the Washington Post reported.

The move is seen as a victory for anti-abortion advocates and a major drawback to scientists who use tissue from elective abortions to research a variety of diseases including cancer, Zika and Parkinson's disease.

In a short statement revealing the decision, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said that, "promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump's administration."

Research that doesn't rely on government dollars won't be affected, the HHS statement said. But the agency also hinted that requests for federal research funding will now be vetted by a new ethics panel.

This change directly counters assurances given to scientists last year that there would be no interruption in funding so long as experiments met current government ethical guidelines, the Post said.

Scientists have repeatedly said that no research substitute for fetal tissue exists. Alternatives such as thymus tissue from newborns are being researched and look promising, however. Research into that possibility is being partly funded by a $20 million government grant.

Last year the government curtailed funding for Advanced Bioscience Resources, a main supplier of fetal tissue implanted into laboratory mice and long a target of anti-abortion groups.

June 6, 2019
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