Health Highlights: April 10, 2017
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Brain Parasite Cases Being Investigated in Hawaii
There have been eight possible cases of brain parasite infection in Hawaii and the number could rise, health officials say.
Rat lungworm disease is spread by snails or slugs that consume rat feces with parasite larvae. People can be infected if they eat an infected slug or snail, or even consume slug or snail residue left on unwashed vegetables, ABC News reported.
The actual number of cases in Hawaii will be unclear until the Department of Health completes its investigation, according to state epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park.
Symptoms vary depending on where the parasite lodges in the brain, she told ABC News.
"Your skin sensation could be affected. It could be that it affects how you walk; it could affect how you talk, whether you are able to move your hands. It could make you comatose. It could kill you," she said. "Until [the parasites] die, they continue to cause a lot of damage."
No 'Death Spiral' for Obamacare, Analysis Shows
The likelihood that individual insurance markets created under Obamacare will fail is slight, according to a new financial analysis that challenges Republican pronouncements.
Standard & Poor's assessed the performance of a number of Blue Cross plans in nearly three dozen states since Obamacare took effect three years ago, The New York Times reported.
The analysis showed that insurers' losses were significantly reduced last year, that they are likely to break even this year, and that most could show profits in 2018. In total, the insurers cover more than five million people in the individual market.
After initial money-losing years, "we are seeing the first signs in 2016 that this market could be manageable for most health insurers," according to the analysts, who added that the "market is not in a 'death spiral,' " The Times reported.
The findings support the Congressional Budget Office's assessment that individual markets are relatively stable under Obamacare, which contradicts some Republican predictions of volatility.
"Things are getting better," in the private insurance markets, according to Gary Claxton, a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, which has been closely tracking insurers' progress, The Times reported.
It took longer than expected, but it seems insurers are beginning to understand how the new individual market works, report co-author and S & P credit analyst Deep Banerjee said.
He noted that companies have increased their prices and are now largely covering their medical costs, and have also significantly narrowed their networks to include fewer doctors and hospitals as a way to lower those costs, The Times reported.
Dead Bat Found in Fresh Express Packaged Salad
The presence of a dead bat in packaged salad bought from a grocery store in Florida is being investigated by state health officials and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Two people said they ate some of the salad before discovering the bat, which was sent to the CDC rabies lab for testing. However, the bat was too deteriorated to determine if it had rabies.
The risk of rabies among the two people who ate the salad is low, but they were advised to begin rabies treatment, the CDC said. No similar cases have been reported.
Due to the incident, Fresh Express on April 8 issued a recall for Organic Marketside Spring Mix sold in clear containers with the production code G089B19 and best-if-used-by date of APR 14, 2017 located on the front label.
The recalled salads were distributed only to Walmart stores located in the Southeastern region of the United States. All remaining packages of salad from the same lot have been removed from stores. People who bought the recalled salad should not eat it and should return it to the place of purchase, the CDC said.