Health Highlights: Sept. 4, 2019
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
New Facebook, Instagram Pop-Up Windows Counter Vaccine Misinformation
Educational pop-up windows will now appear on Facebook and Instagram when people search for vaccine-related content.
The goal of the new feature is to counter the spread of anti-vaccine misinformation, according to Facebook, which owns Instagram, CNN reported.
Users in the United States will get a pop-up window connecting them to vaccine information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while users outside the U.S. will be linked with the World Health Organization.
The CDC welcomed Facebook's move.
"We know that parents often turn to social media to access health information and connect with other parents, and it can be difficult to determine what is accurate and who the credible sources of information are," CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said in an email, CNN reported.
Since the start of the year, the U.S. has had more than 1,200 confirmed measles cases in 31 states, and other countries have also had outbreaks.
Vaccine misinformation online has been a major factor in fewer people getting vaccinated, resulting outbreaks of measles and other preventable illnesses, according to public health experts, CNN reported.
Michigan First State to Ban Flavored E-Cigarettes
Michigan's decision to become the first state to ban flavored electronic cigarettes is meant to protect young people, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says.
She said she decided to take the action after the state health department concluded that youth vaping was a public health emergency.
"My number one priority is keeping our kids safe and protecting the health of the people of Michigan," Whitmer told the Washington Post.
She said e-cigarette companies use sweet flavors such as bubble gum and "fruit loops," to get young people hooked on nicotine, with potentially long-term risk to their health.
The ban covers both retail and online sales and goes into effect immediately, but businesses will have 30 days to comply, the Post reported.
The ban will last for six months, and can be renewed for another six months. In the meantime, a permanent ban on flavored e-cigarettes will be developed, according to state officials.
The ban does not cover tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes, the Post reported.
Also banned are what Whitmer called misleading descriptions of vaping products such as "clear," "safe" and "healthy," and she ordered enforcement of an existing ban on billboard to ads for e-cigarettes.
Second Possible Death in U.S. From Vaping-Related Lung Illness
A second death in the United States from severe respiratory illness possibly associated with vaping is being investigated by health officials.
The death occurred in Oregon in July and involved a person who'd recently vaped products containing cannabis bought at a dispensary, state health officials said Tuesday, CNN reported.
Last month, the first such death in the U.S. was announced by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
"We don't yet know the exact cause of these illnesses -- whether they're caused by contaminants, ingredients in the liquid or something else, such as the device itself," Dr. Ann Thomas, public health physician, Public Health Division, Oregon Health Authority, said in a statement, CNN reported.
Last Friday, federal health officials said that as of Aug. 27 there had been at least 215 possible cases in 25 states of severe lung disease that could be linked with vaping -- and that more cases remain under investigation.
However, reports by individual state health departments suggest the total number of potential cases could be much higher, according to CNN.
California Bill Targets Doctors Who Sell Fake Vaccine Medical Exemptions
A bill that targets doctors who sell fraudulent medical exemptions for vaccinations was passed Tuesday by California's state Assembly.
The legislation would give state public health officials the power to investigate doctors who grant more than five medical exemptions in a year and schools with vaccination rates of less than 95%, the Associated Press reported.
After the vote 47-17 vote, Gov. Gavin Newsom's office said that he will seek additional amendments to the bill.
The office said ""there are a few pending technical -- but important -- changes to the bill that clarify the exemption and appeal process that have broad support," the AP reported.
Opponents of the bill claim it interferes with doctor-patient relationships, while supporters say too many vaccination exemptions reduce the "community immunity" that limits measles outbreaks.
"This protection is being undermined by a handful of unscrupulous physicians who are profiting from putting children at risk and making our schools less safe," said Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego, a principal co-author of the bill, the AP reported.
NYC Measles Outbreak Over: Officials
The New York City measles outbreak is over and the public health emergency that was declared on April 9 for parts of Brooklyn has ended, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday.
It was the largest outbreak in New York City in nearly three decades. Since it began in October 2018, 654 people were diagnosed with measles. There have been 52 measles-related hospitalizations and 16 admissions to intensive care due to measles complications.
Most of the cases (525 or 80%) were diagnosed in people younger than 18, and most cases were among unvaccinated (73%) or incompletely vaccinated (7%) people, or among those who did not know their vaccination status (15%).
Most of the cases (72%) occurred in the Williamsburg neighborhood.
Measles outbreaks are typically declared over when two incubation periods for measles (42 days) have passed since the last infectious day of the last people with measles in an affected area, according to a city news release.
That amount of time has passed for the people most recently infected with measles and reported to the Health Department. No new measles cases have been reported since mid-July.
"Ending the measles outbreak required extensive collaboration with community organizations and Jewish leaders. They helped encourage vaccinations and achieve record immunization levels in parts of Brooklyn," de Blasio said in the news release.
"As we head back to school this week, we just remain vigilant. To keep our children and communities safe, I urge all New Yorkers to get vaccinated. It's the best defense we have," he added.
"Measles is one of the most contagious diseases on the face of the earth," Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said in the news release.
"There may no longer be local transmission of measles in New York City, but the threat remains given other outbreaks in the U.S. and around the world," Barbot warned.
"Our best defense against renewed transmission is having a well immunized city. Vaccination coverage has increased significantly since the emergency order, which has been supported by community-led efforts. We are grateful to the New Yorkers who shared the truth about vaccines and protected the health of their friends and neighbors through this outbreak," Barbot said.
New York State recently ended non-medical exemptions for vaccinations required for school children.