Health Highlights: March 6, 2017

Related Health News

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

Republicans Introduce Obamacare Replacement

The Republican replacement for the Affordable Care Act was formally introduced in the House on Monday, arriving in a legislative package that will almost certainly leave more Americans without health insurance.

The package scraps the mandate for health insurance and instead offers tax incentives designed to encourage Americans to get health insurance coverage, The New York Times reported..

The bill does propose preserving two of the most popular elements of the health care reform law known as Obamacare. There will still be safeguards for people with pre-existing medical conditions and young adults will still be able to stay on their parent's health insurance plans until the age of 26, the Associated Press reported.

But highly unpopular fines on people who choose not to buy health insurance will be eliminated, according to the AP.

Voting on the legislation will begin in House committees on Wednesday, the wire service said.

No official estimates on how many Americans could lose their health insurance under the replacement package were available from Republicans on Monday, according to the Associated Press.

The package would also change premium subsidies in a way that may not provide as much assistance to people with low incomes, the wire service reported.

As for Medicaid, the expansion of the health insurance program for the poor would continue expanding until 2020, after which states adding Medicaid recipients would no longer receive the additional federal funds President Barack Obama's law would have provided, according to the wire service.

At the same time, the plan changes Medicaid funding from open-ended federal financing to a limit based on enrollment and costs in each state, the AP said.


Bird Flu Confirmed At Tennessee Chicken Facility

A strain of bird flu has been confirmed at a commercial chicken breeding facility in Tennessee.

The H7 strain of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) was found by the state Agriculture Department at the facility in south-central Lincoln county after the facility alerted the state veterinarian's office about in increase in chicken deaths, CBS News/Associated Press reported.

State officials did not name the facility, but said it and about 30 other poultry farms within about a six-mile radius of the site are under quarantine.

No affected chickens have entered the food chain and there is no risk to the food supply, according to officials, CBS/AP reported.


Polluted Environments Kill 1.7 Million Children Worldwide Each Year: WHO

Unhealthy and polluted environments cause more than 1 in 4 deaths of children younger than age 5 worldwide, the World Health Organization says.

Environmental factors such as indoor and outdoor air pollution, secondhand smoke, unsafe water, lack of sanitation, and poor hygiene kill 1.7 million children a year, according to two new WHO reports.

Diarrhea, malaria and pneumonia account for a large portion of the most common causes of death among children ages 1 month to 5 years, but can be prevented through environmental improvement measures such as clean cooking fuels and access to safe water.

"A polluted environment is a deadly one -- particularly for young children," WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said in an agency news release. "Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water."

Exposures to harmful environmental factors can begin in the womb and increase the risk of premature birth. Infants and preschoolers exposed to indoor and outdoor air pollution and secondhand smoke are at increased risk for pneumonia in childhood and a lifetime increased risk of asthma and other chronic respiratory diseases, WHO said.

It also warned that childhood exposure to air pollution may increase the lifelong risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer.


Spike in H7N9 Bird Flu Cases Cause for Concern: CDC

There is "cause for concern" in the sudden rise in cases of H7N9 bird flu in China, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The virus has infected 460 in China since October, which is "by far the largest epidemic wave since 2013, said CDC flu expert Dr. Tim Uyeki told NBC New reported.

"It's a cause for concern, that's for sure," Uyeki said. "The surge in numbers of human H7N9 cases in China is definitely a concern."

In January, the CDC issued a travel notice warning travelers to China to avoid live bird markets. Travelers do not need to stay away from China, but should be aware that poultry can spread the virus, Uyeki told NBC News.

H7N9 bird flu has infected a total of 1,258 people since 2013, so the 460 cases since October account for a third of all the cases over four years.

The virus is fatal in more than 40 percent of infected people who are hospitalized, NBC News reported.


New Drug Reduces Nighttime Urination

The first drug to reduce the number of times adults have to urinate during the night has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Noctiva is a nasal spray for adults who make at least two nighttime trips to the bathroom due to causes such as certain medications, chronic heart failure, poorly controlled diabetes, and bladder and prostate problems, the Associated Press reported.

The spray, used about 30 minutes before bedtime each night, helps the kidneys absorb more water in order to reduce the amount of urine.

Noctiva carries a black box warning -- the FDA's strongest -- about the risk of dangerously low levels of sodium in the blood. Other possible side effects include colds, bronchitis, a rise in blood pressure, dizziness, back pain and nose bleeds, the AP reported.

The drug was developed by Serenity Pharmaceuticals LLC and Allergan PLC.


Liver Transplant Groundbreaker Dies

Groundbreaking liver transplant surgeon Dr. Thomas Starzl has died at age 90.

Starzl died Saturday at his home in Pittsburgh, the University of Pittsburgh announced on behalf of the doctor's family, the Associated Press reported.

In 1963, Starzl performed the world's first attempted liver transplant, and in 1967 he performed the world's first successful liver transplant in 1967. He was also a trailblazer kidney transplantation from cadavers.

Starzl was also a leading researcher in the field of anti-rejection drugs.

"We regard him as the father of transplantation," said Dr. Abhinav Humar, clinical director of the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute, the AP reported. "His legacy in transplantation is hard to put into words -- it's really immense."

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