Health Highlights: Feb. 26, 2018
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
New FDA Guidelines to Expand Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction
New guidelines to expand medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction will be introduced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to a senior official.
The agency will issue draft guidelines in the next few weeks, the official told The New York Times.
Changes will include allowing the sale of medications that ease opioid cravings, even if they don't halt addiction.
In remarks Saturday to the National Governors Association, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II said the FDA intended "to correct a misconception that patients must achieve total abstinence in order for MAT (medication-assisted therapy) to be considered effective," The Times reported.
In 2016, there were nearly 64,000 opioid overdose deaths in the U.S., including from prescription painkillers and heroin.
Federal data shows that only one-third of specialty substance abuse treatment programs offer medication-assisted treatment, Azar noted.
"We want to raise that number -- in fact, it will be nigh impossible to turn the tide on this epidemic without doing so," he said, The Times reported.
Currently, there are three FDA-approved drugs for opioid treatment: buprenorphine (brand name Suboxone); methadone; and naltrexone (brand name Vivitrol). These drugs are safe and effective when combined with counseling and other support, according to the agency.
But the FDA plans to publish new recommendations for drugmakers on the issue, The Times reported.
One will promote the development of new, longer-acting forms of existing drugs for opioid treatment, and the other says new drugs that don't stop opioid addiction but help ease it will be eligible for FDA approval.
Tourist With Measles Visited Numerous Sites in New York: Health Officials
An Australian tourist with the measles recently visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as hotels and health care facilities in and around New York City, potentially exposing other people to the measles, state health officials say.
They added that the risk of developing measles is low, especially for people who have been immunized.
The tourist was part of an Oasis Bible Tour group traveling between Feb. 16-21. Anyone who visited the following locations may have been exposed to the measles, the New York State Department of Health said.
The locations include:
The measles infection rate is 90 percent for nonimmunized people who come near an active spreader, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Washington Post reported.
"Those individuals lacking immunity or who are not sure if they have been vaccinated, should contact their health care provider if they develop measles symptoms. Symptoms include a fever, rash, cough, conjunctivitis or runny nose. Symptoms usually appear in 10-12 days after exposure. Individuals who may have been exposed and who lack immunity could begin experiencing symptoms at this time," the state health department news release said.
"To prevent the spread of illness, the Department is advising individuals who may have been exposed and who have symptoms consistent with measles to contact their health care provider, a local clinic, or a local emergency department before going for care. This will help to prevent others at these facilities from being exposed to the illness."
Reward Offered in Case of Missing CDC Employee
A $10,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest and indictment in the case of a missing U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention employee.
Police say Timothy Cunningham, 35, was last seen on Feb. 12, The New York Times reported.
Last July, Cunningham was promoted to commander in the United States Public Health Service, according to his family. They have teamed up with Crime Stoppers of Greater Atlanta to offer the reward.
"As of today we have been unable to locate Mr. Cunningham and we are seeking the assistance of the public with this case," Officer Donald Hannah of the Atlanta Police Department said in an email on Saturday, The Times reported.
Police have found no evidence of foul play, according to Hannah.
Terrell Cunningham told The Times his son had "a lot going on" personally and professionally.
The CDC website says Cunningham has been deployed for public health emergencies such as outbreaks of Ebola and the Zika virus.
Iceland Bill Would Ban Circumcision of Boys
A proposal to ban the circumcision of boys for non-medical reasons is being considered in Iceland. If passed, it would be the first such law in Europe.
Circumcision of boys is typically performed on newborns, and the proposed law says this is a violation of human rights "since boys are not able to give an informed consent of an irreversible physical intervention," the Associated Press reported.
"This is fundamentally about not causing unnecessary harm to a child," said Silja Dogg Gunnarsdottir, of the centrist Progressive Party, who introduced the bill this month.
Under the bill, circumcision of boys would be considered the same as female genital mutilation and punishable by up to six years in prison, the AP reported.
Some religious leaders in Iceland and other parts of Europe say the proposed ban is an attack on religious freedom. Male circumcision is traditionally practiced by Jews and Muslims.
The bill appears to have little support in the Iceland parliament, but is backed by 422 Icelandic doctors who favor outlawing the practice, the AP reported.
In a joint statement, the doctors said circumcision violates the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and also the physicians' Hippocratic Oath that states: "First, do no harm."
"In Western societies, circumcision of healthy boys has no significant health benefits," according to the statement, citing a 2013 paper in the American Academy of Pediatrics journal, the AP reported.