Health Highlights: June 5, 2019

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

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 reveling 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.

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LabCorp Hacked, Nearly 8 Million Patient Records Exposed

Only a day after Quest Diagnostics reported a leak of 12 million records, another major lab company has suffered the same fate.

Reporting to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, LabCorp said its vendor, American Medical Collection Agency (AMCA,), appears to have been compromised in about 7.7 million patient records. That’s the same company that was involved in the exposure of Quest’s records, USA Today reported.

The breach occurred between Aug. 1, 2018, and March 30, 2019. Data that might have been exposed includes names, addresses, dates of birth and balance information, credit card numbers and bank account information.

LabCorp said that patient test results, Social Security Numbers, and insurance information were not stored at AMCA.

AMCA told USA Today that it took its web payments page down, and: “We hired a third-party external forensics firm to investigate any potential security breach in our systems, migrated our web payments portal services to a third-party vendor, and retained additional experts to advise on, and implement, steps to increase our systems’ security.”

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‘Desperate Housewives’ Star Keen to Spread Awareness of Anal Cancer

Marcia Cross, known for her role on “Desperate Housewives,” was diagnosed and treated for anal cancer. Now she wants to call attention to the disease, CBS News reports.

Cross hopes to breakdown the stigma around the disease.

“I know there are people who are ashamed. You have cancer! You have to then also feel ashamed? Like you did something bad, you know, because it took up residence in your anus? I mean, come on, really. There’s enough on your plate,” Cross told CBS. “Even for me, it took a while. Anus, anus, anus! Ha. You just have to get used to it,” she said.

Cross said she’s going great. “I’m feeling back to normal though it’s a new normal,” she said. “I don’t think I’ll ever take it for granted. I’m the girl who goes to the bathroom now and I go ‘Yes! It’s great what my body can do! I’m so grateful.'”

By sharing her story, Cross hopes others will get up the nerve to talk with their doctors about symptoms such as rectal bleeding, a lump in the anus, or difficulty going to the bathroom.

In 2019, some 8,300 Americans will be diagnosed with anal cancer. Actress Farrah Fawcett died from the illness in 2009.

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Former CDC Director Pleads Guilty to Sex Abuse

Tom Frieden, who ran the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the Obama administration avoided jail by pleading guilty to groping a family friend, ABC News reported.

The incident occurred in October 2017. In 2018, the women involved reported that Frieden had grabbed her butt in a Brooklyn apartment. Frieden turned himself into police.

Frieden, 58, wasn’t required to explain to Brooklyn Criminal Court Judge Edwin Novillo what happened. Frieden plea avoided up to a year in jail for misdemeanor forcible touching, third-degree sexual abuse and second-degree harassment.

Frieden pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in exchange for having all of the criminal charges dropped. He was sentenced to a conditional discharge, which will be dismissed and sealed in a year as long as he doesn’t get arrested during that time.

The judge also ordered Frieden not to have contact with the woman for a year.

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Congo Ebola Cases Exceed 2,000

An outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo has reach more than 2,000 cases in 10 months, BBC News, reported.

The outbreak, which has killed two thirds of its victims, is now the second largest in history. The number of cases has risen rapidly in recent weeks.

The fight against the epidemic has been hindered by mistrust of violence towards health care workers, the BBC said.

Although more than 1,300 deaths from the disease have been reported since August, the NGO Oxfam told the BBC, that their teams meet people everyday who don’t believe Ebola even exists.

Still others say they don’t trust health care workers, so they avoid treatment. That makes it more difficult to curb the outbreak, Oxfam said.

In addition, from January to May more than 40 attacks on health stations have occurred. Recently, however, the attacks have lessened.

Although the outbreak is confined to two provinces, there is a fear that it will spread because violence in the region is making it harder to contain.

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Beverly Hills Is First U.S. City to Stop Most Tobacco Sales

Beverly Hills city council voted Tuesday to ban sales of cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products starting in 2021.

It’s the first city to take such a step, according to a report from the Associated Press.

The ban covers gas stations, drugstores and convenience stores, but exempts hotels and three cigar lounges in the posh LA suburb.

Exempting hotels was done to accommodate tourists.

Owners of gas stations said the new ban targeted their businesses, which could cause layoffs. But public health advocates believe the benefits to health are worth the costs.

“I’ll never understand why a product that causes diseases and harm to nearly every organ of the body can be sold at every gas station and drug store,” Laurent Huber, executive director of Action on Smoking and Health, said in a news release.

“No other hazardous, proven-deadly product receives the same free pass to be sold for mass consumption,” Huber said. “Beverly Hills is the first domino falling for tobacco sales, and other jurisdictions with no doubt soon follow their lead.”

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Apple Watch Adding Menstrual Cycle Tracker

Among the new Apple Watch apps announced on Monday is one to track a women’s menstrual cycle, CNN reported.

The app will predict the timing of a woman’s menstrual cycle, which can help tell when she is likely to be fertile.

“Knowing more about your menstrual cycle gives you a window into your health, from simply insuring you are prepared to understanding your personal patterns and regularities,” Sumbul Desai, Apple’s vice president of health, said during the Worldwide Developers Conference, CNN said.

According to Apple, women can add information related to their menstrual cycle, including current period, flow, symptoms, results from ovulation prediction kits and other elements of fertility tracking.

The app will be available with the release of iOS 13.

HealthDay