Health Highlights: Feb. 9, 2017

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

Washington State Mumps Outbreak Continues to Grow

There have been 400 confirmed and probable cases of mumps in Washington state since October and the outbreak could continue to grow, according to CNN.

The figure was arrived at through a county-by-county survey. The state reported 349 confirmed and probable cases as of Feb. 1.

"It's been a continuous upwards track of new cases. However, until we reach a point where no more vulnerable people are exposed, it may continue to grow," Dave Johnson, a spokesman for the Washington State Department of Health, told CNN.

The department is "assisting local health departments with the case investigations" and giving "clinical guidance to healthcare providers about diagnosing and testing for mumps," Johnson said.

"We continue to supplying vaccine to local health departments to be sure there is enough for people who need it," he said. "The best way to control the mumps outbreak is to educate people about how to protect themselves and their families from mumps. The MMR vaccine is our first line of defense."

When compared to other parts of the country, the outbreak in Washington state is proceeding in a typical manner, Kim Papich, spokeswoman for the Spokane Regional Health District,told CNN.

Each year in the U.S., the number of mumps cases range from a couple hundred to a couple thousand, according to Dr. Manisha Patel, a medical officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Patel said 2016 was a "high" year, with 46 states and the District of Columbia reporting 5,311 total cases. but only a few states had above average numbers. Arkansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, New York and Illinois each confirmed more than 300 cases, CNN reported.

Children should get their first dose of MMR vaccine at 12 to 15 months of age and the second dose at 4 to 6 years old, the CDC recommends. The vaccine protects against measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox.

The vaccine is 88 percent effective with two doses, but less effective with just one dose, CNN reported.


Price's Confirmation as Health Secretary Seems Certain

Final approval of President Donald Trump's choice for Health and Human Services secretary seems certain.

Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., has long pushed for the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act -- President Barack Obama's health care law -- and major changes to Medicare and Medicaid, both of which are major features of the Republican agenda, the Associated Press reported.

On Wednesday, the Senate voted 51-48 against Democratic delaying tactics against Price, opening the way for the former orthopedic surgeon and seven-term Congressman from Atlanta's suburbs to be confirmed as health secretary.

Republicans believe that once in that position, Price will have the Department of Health and Human Services issue directives weakening the Affordable Care Act. Such actions might include restricting access to free birth control for women who work for religious-affiliated nonprofits, and allowing states to test different ways to use federal Medicaid funds, the AP reported.

Price could also lead the way in implementing a still-undrafted Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.

At Senate hearings on Price's nomination, Democrats accused Price of conflicts of interest in acquiring shares in health care companies, supporting legislation that could benefit those companies, and using insider information to make investments, the AP reported.

Price has said he's done nothing wrong and that the purchase was made by his stockbroker.


First-Born Children More Intelligent: Study

First-born children tend to be more intelligent than their siblings, perhaps because they get extra parental attention in early life compared to siblings, a new study finds.

Researchers examined data from 5,000 children who completed reading and picture vocabulary tests every two years until age 14 and found that first-borns had higher IQ test scores beginning as young as one year old, The Independent reported.

The differences in test scores between first-borns and other children increased with age, according to the study in the Journal of Human Resources.

While all children in the study received the same level of emotional support from parents, first-born youngsters were given more parental support with tasks that involved thinking, The Independent reported.

This is a story from HealthDay, a service of ScoutNews, LLC.