Health Highlights: Jan. 31, 2018
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Pharmacist Involved in Deadly Meningitis Outbreak Receives 8-Year Jail Term
An eight-year prison sentence was handed out Wednesday to the pharmacist convicted in connection with a 2012 meningitis outbreak in the United States that killed 76 people and sickened hundreds.
During his sentencing hearing in Boston’s federal courthouse, Glenn Chin sobbed as he apologized to the victims and their families, the Associated Press reported.
The outbreak was caused by contaminated steroid injections from the New England Compounding Center pharmacy in Massachusetts. Chin was found guilty of fraud and conspiracy but acquitted of second-degree murder.
CDC Director Resigns Due to Financial Conflicts
The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has resigned due to financial conflicts.
Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald held the position since July. Her complex financial holdings created conflicts of interest that made it difficult to do her job, according to a Department of Health and Human Services statement released Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.
When Fitzgerald took over as CDC director, she owned many types of stocks, including those in beer and soda companies, the tobacco company Philip Morris International, and some health care companies.
Fitzgerald said she sold some stocks but kept others due to rules that prevent her from selling them, the AP reported.
Cancer Warning Signs May be Posted in California Coffee Shops
Coffee shops in California may soon have signs warning customers that their cup of java may pose a cancer risk.
Acrylamide, a possible cause of cancer, is created when coffee beans are roasted. A lawsuit by the nonprofit Council for Education and Research on Toxics alleges that several companies that make or sell coffee ” “failed to provide clear and reasonable warning” that drinking coffee could expose people to acrylamide, CNN reported.
The lawsuit was first filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in 2010. It notes that California law requires businesses to alert customers about the presence of agents that affect health, and that the defendants — including Starbucks, 7- Eleven and BP — failed to do so.
Along with fines, the lawsuit seeks to force companies to post warnings about acrylamide and outline the potential risks of drinking coffee. The signs would have to be clearly posted at store counters or on walls where they could easily be seen by customers, CNN reported.
The goal of the lawsuit is actually to force coffee companies to reduce acrylamide levels to the point where there is no significant cancer risk, according to Raphael Metzger, the attorney for the nonprofit group.
The companies have argued that the level of acrylamide in coffee should be considered safe under California law and that the health benefits of coffee outweigh any risk, CNN reported.
At least 13 of the defendants have settled and agreed to post the warning. The other companies will have to do the same if they don’t settle the lawsuit and if the judge rules that they violated state laws. Private mediation with nine remaining defendants is scheduled for Feb. 8, Metzger said.
Sterilizing Mosquitoes Released Into Wild in Miami
Special mosquitoes will be released in some Miami-area neighborhoods in coming days in an effort to reduce people’s risk of Zika, dengue, yellow fever and other mosquito-borne diseases.
The male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes carry bacteria that cause female mosquitoes to lay useless eggs, leading to a decline in the mosquito population, NBC News reported.
“The released male mosquitoes mate with the female mosquitoes. The resulting eggs do not hatch, which can reduce the mosquito population that can transmit mosquito-borne viruses,” the City of South Miami said in a statement.
“The … male mosquitoes do not bite or blood feed and are incapable of transmitting diseases,” the city explained.
Illness Outbreak Linked to Puppies is Over: CDC
A 17-state outbreak of Campylobacter bacteria infections linked to puppies from Petland stores is over, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In total, 113 people became sick. The last illness began on Jan. 7, 2018.
Investigators could not pinpoint a common breeder who supplied Petland with puppies infected with the outbreak strain of Campylobacter, the CDC said. Puppies could have been infected through contact with puppies from other breeders or distributors when they were being transported to pet stores.
The Campylobacter strain that caused the outbreak was resistant to commonly-used antibiotics, highlighting the need for responsible use of antibiotics in pets, the CDC said.
The agency also noted that even though the outbreak is over, pet owners need to be aware that any puppy or dog can carry germs such as Campylobacter and need to take precautions. These include always washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after touching puppies or dogs, or after picking up their poop.
Chinese Scientists Use 3-D Printing to Create New Ears for Children
New ears for five children were grown using a combination of 3-D printing and cultured cells, scientists in China say.
The first-of-its-kind study included children with a defect in one ear called microtia, which affects the shape and function of the ear, CNN reported.
The research was published in the journal EBioMedicine.
“We were able to successfully design, fabricate, and regenerate patient-specific external ears,” wrote the researchers, who followed each child for up to 2 1/2 years, CNN reported.
“Nevertheless, further efforts remain necessary to eventually translate this prototype work into routine clinical practices,” they added. “In the future, long-term (up to 5 years) follow-up of the cartilage properties and clinical outcomes … will be essential.”
Judge Hosts Meeting on Settling Opioid Lawsuits
Lawyers will meet Wednesday in Cleveland to begin talks on trying to settle more than 250 lawsuits filed against drug makers and distributors over the U.S. opioid epidemic.
The lawsuits were filed in communities nationwide but have been consolidated in the Cleveland courtroom of U.S. District Court Judge Dan Polster, the Associated Press reported.
Wednesday’s meeting, which will include lawyers for municipal and state governments, drug makers and distributors, will be closed to the media and the public.
The U.S. is experiencing the largest and deadliest drug crisis in its history . In 2016, the federal government counted a record 63,600 drug overdose deaths, the AP reported.