Health Highlights: May 8, 2019
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Kentucky Teen Who Refused Chickenpox Vaccination Now Has Chickenpox
A Kentucky teen who was banned from school for refusing vaccination against chickenpox has come down with the disease, his lawyer says.
Jerome Kunkel, 18, developed chickenpox symptoms last week and may recover by next week, the lawyer told NBC News.
Kunkel is a student at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Assumption Academy. A chickenpox outbreak at the school in March led state health officials to order unvaccinated students to stay away from school. Kunkel challenged the ban in court but was unsuccessful.
Kentucky Health Department spokesman Doug Hogan declined comment Wednesday, NBC News reported.
Kunkel and his family do not regret their decision against vaccination, according to family attorney Christopher Wiest.
Prices Will Soon be Included in TV Drug Ads
In response to public demands for action to control drug costs, the top U.S. health official says TV ads for prescription drugs will soon have to include prices.
Regulations requiring drug companies to disclose list prices of medications costing more than $35 for a month's supply have been finalized, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.
The prices are expected to appear in text toward the end of TV commercials, when potential side effects are being listed. The new policy, which could take effect as early as this summer, covers all brand name drugs covered by Medicare and Medicaid, which is nearly all medications.
The drug industry opposes the move, saying companies prefer to list prices on their websites, the AP reported.
"What I say to the companies is if you think the cost of your drug will scare people from buying your drugs, then lower your prices," Azar said. "Transparency for American patients is here."
Azar also said the Trump administration is willing to consider permitting Americans to import lower-priced prescription drugs from other countries if it can be shown to be safe and to actually help patients save money, the AP reported.
The latest government figures show that the prices of the 10 most widely advertised drugs range from $488 to $16,938 per month or for a usual course of therapy.
Policies such as disclosing prices won't make drug companies lower their prices, say Democrats, who want Medicare to negotiate on behalf of patients, the AP reported.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s Anti-Vaccine Views Slammed by Family Members
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s anti-vaccine views make him "part of a misinformation campaign that's having heartbreaking -- and deadly -- consequences," three members of his family say in a Politico op-ed published Wednesday.
Former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II and Maeve Kennedy McKean made the link between so-called anti-vaxxers and measles outbreaks in the United States and worldwide, CNN reported.
"Robert F. Kennedy Jr. -- Joe and Kathleen's brother and Maeve's uncle -- is part of this campaign to attack the institutions committed to reducing the tragedy of preventable infectious diseases," the three family members wrote.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the son of late presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, is among the most well known anti-vaccine activists. He wrote a book about mercury in vaccines and lobbied Congress to give parents exemptions from state requirements for vaccinating their children, CNN reported.
So far this year, 764 measles cases have been reported across the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"These tragic numbers are caused by the growing fear and mistrust of vaccines -- amplified by internet doomsayers," according to the op-ed.
The authors said Kennedy Jr. "helped to spread dangerous misinformation over social media and is complicit in sowing distrust of the science behind vaccines."
"We are proud of the history of our family as advocates of public health and promoters of immunization campaigns to bring life-saving vaccines to the poorest and most remote corners of America and the world, where children are the least likely to receive their full course of vaccinations. On this issue, Bobby is an outlier in the Kennedy family," they wrote, CNN reported.
Church of Scientology Cruise Ship Passengers and Crew Still Under Quarantine
Hundreds of passengers and crew members of a Church of Scientology cruise ship remain under quarantine in its home port of Curacao while awaiting measles test results.
Blood samples from the 277 people were sent to the Netherlands and the test results were expected to arrive by Wednesday. Curacao health officials will then decide whether to allow passengers and crew to disembark the cruise ship Freewinds, ABC News reported.
At least 31 crew members and 10 passengers were able to provide proof that they were negative for measles.
No one has been allowed to leave the ship since April 30 when it docked in St. Lucia with a possible case of measles on board. The next day, a crew member tested positive for measles and the ship was quarantined until it left St. Lucia last Thursday, ABC News reported.
The affected crew member was immediately isolated after showing symptoms and was kept "in a single-patient medical room with a special controlled-air ventilation system to prevent the airborne spread of any illness to other parts of the ship," according to a Church of Scientology statement issued Sunday.
Eating Nuts During Pregnancy May Benefit Baby's Brain: Study
Women who eat nuts during pregnancy may give their babies a brain boost, according to a new study.
It included more than 2,200 children who were assessed when they were 1.5, 5 and 8 years old. Those born to mothers who ate the most nuts during pregnancy (an average of 74 grams, or 2.6 ounces, of nuts a week) scored much higher on tests of sustained attention, working memory and IQ than those of mothers who ate fewer nuts, The New York Times reported.
The study was published in the European Journal of Epidemiology.
"This is the first time we have seen this effect, and it is not enough information to change guidelines," said senior author, Jordi Julvez, a researcher at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, Spain, The Times reported.
"We need to replicate these results in other populations. Still, I would recommend that women eat nuts at least three times a week, especially almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts," Julvez added.
While the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists approves of nuts during pregnancy for their protein content, it makes no claims about potential brain benefits, The Times reported.
British Having Less Sex, Want More: Study
Couples are behind an overall decline in British people having less sex, according to a new study that also found that many of them want more sex.
Researchers analyzed data from more than 34,000 people, ages 16-44, surveyed in 1991, 2011 and 2012, CNN reported.
Between 2001 and 2012, the number of men who reported not having sex in the previous month rose from 26% to 29.2%, while the rate among women rose from 23% to 29.3%, according to the study in the BMJ.
In 2012, fewer than 1 in 6 people said they had sex 10 times or more in the previous month in 2012, compared with just over 1 in 5 in 2001.
Married or cohabiting couples had slightly more sex in 2001 than in 1991, but less in 2012 than in 2001 or 1991, CNN reported.
But the general decline in sex was not as significant among single people, and the study found that the rate of single men who reported no sex in the previous month fell from 50.3% in 1991 to 43.4% in 2012.
The researchers also found that more than half of women and almost two-thirds of men said they wanted more sex.
Both opposite-sex and same-sex intercourse were included in the study, CNN reported.
While the findings are from the U.K., they match trends in other countries, including the United States, according to the researchers.
Georgia Governor Signs Early Abortion Ban
Legislation banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected was signed Tuesday by Georgia's Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.
A fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks, before many women know they're pregnant, the Associated Press reported.
Currently, Georgia allows abortions during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. If the new law is not blocked in court, it would take effect Jan. 1, 2020.
Staci Fox, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast, said she has "one message for Governor Kemp: We'll see you in court," the AP reported.
The bill "criminalizes doctors who provide lifesaving care" and "allows the state to investigate women for having miscarriages," according to Planned Parenthood, which pledged to unseat lawmakers who support the it.
Under "50 years of Supreme Court precedent, this abortion ban is clearly unconstitutional," ACLU of Georgia legal director Sean Young told the AP.
"Every federal court that has heard a challenge to a similar ban has ruled that it's unconstitutional," Young said.
Melania Trump's 'Be Best' Children's Program to Expand
The "Be Best" children's initiative will be expanded, Melania Trump said on the one-year anniversary of her program.
At a White House celebration, the first lady is expected to reveal expansion of two of the program's three areas of focus, child well-being, social media use and drug abuse, the Associated Press reported.
The drug abuse component will now include all children, not just babies and young mothers, and the social media component will be expanded beyond bullying to include online safety.
The first lady has visited visited hospitals and schools across the United States and in other nations to promote her initiative, the AP reported.