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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The head of the government's fight against the Zika virus said that "we are now essentially out of money" and warned that the country is "about to see a bunch of kids born with microcephaly" in the coming months.

Friday's warning from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Thomas Frieden came as lawmakers start to sort out a stopgap government funding bill that is being targeted to also carry long-delayed money to battle Zika.

Zika is spreading more widely in the U.S. and can not only cause microcephaly - in which babies are born with grave brain defects - but other problems that the country will face for decades.

Frieden said funding delays have slowed long-term studies of the disease and production of new tests for it. "We haven't been able to get a running start" on a long-term battle against Zika, he said.

Frieden added that "we don't like to see" the use of pesticides such as Friday morning's spraying of naled, in Miami Beach. But, he said, new technologies for the application of such toxic chemicals are safe for humans. The two localized mosquito-borne outbreaks in Miami are "quite difficult to control," Frieden said, adding that the type of mosquitoes that spread Zika "are the cockroach of mosquitoes."

President Barack Obama in February requested $1.9 billion to battle Zika, but Republicans controlling Congress acted slowly on the request. A Capitol Hill fight this summer stalled the Zika aid. Republicans attached restrictions on any of the money going to affiliates of Planned Parenthood in Puerto Rico. Democrats objected and blocked the $1.1 billion measure.

Now, negotiations are underway to break the impasse over Zika and add it to the only piece of legislation that has to pass Congress before the election: A stopgap funding bill to avert a government shutdown on Oct. 1.

Democrats and the White House have greater leverage now since their approval is needed for the stopgap spending bill, and Republicans are signaling they'll likely lift the restrictions on delivering contraception, treatment and care through Planned Parenthood, an organization that many Republicans loathe since it is a major provider of abortion.

A bipartisan consensus is emerging to fund the government through mid-December, though some House tea party conservatives are opposed and want a longer duration for the measure to avert a lame duck session of Congress.

Since February, Zika has spread more widely, and frustration is mounting from lawmakers representing affected areas.

"Look if we don't, then fire all of us," said Florida GOP Rep. David Jolly, whose state is bearing the brunt of the disease in the continental U.S. "If we can't get Zika funding by the end of September then we're nothing but a bunch of idiots up here."

"I think we'll look at this delay in time and say, 'How could they have waited so long?' This was so urgent. It was the very definition of an emergency," Frieden said. "Not only is this unanticipated, it's unprecedented. It's potentially catastrophic, and it's certainly that for the kind of brain damage we're seeing."

Frieden noted that it is extremely unusual to have a new cause for a severe birth defect and that the health care system will be grappling with the effects of Zika for years to come. While microcephaly is the most immediate result of the outbreak, Frieden noted that infants are having problems swallowing and with their vision and hearing.

"We don't know what congenital Zika syndrome will look like," Frieden said. "We will likely be dealing with this for decades to come."

Friday, 09 September 2016 16:46
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LONDON (AP) —
    There's good news for grumpy women: Being happy apparently has no effect on how long you might live.
    That's the conclusion of the latest attempt to find out if happy people live longer. Previous studies have linked happiness to longevity but researchers now say there's no such scientific connection. So while being sick makes you unhappy, just being grouchy isn't enough to make you ill or shorten your life.
    The results are based on questionnaires from more than 715,000 British women aged 50 to 69 who were enrolled in a national breast cancer screening program in the late 1990s.
    The women were asked things like how often they felt happy and how healthy they were. Nearly 40 percent of the women said they were happy most of the time while 17 percent said they were unhappy. After a decade of tracking the women, 4 percent had died.
    Scientists found the death rate among unhappy women was the same as those who were happy. The research was published online Wednesday in the medical journal Lancet.
    "It's such a common belief that stress and unhappiness causes death and disease but it's actually the other way around," said Richard Peto, a professor at the University of Oxford who was one of the study's authors. "People should focus on the real issues that shorten their lives, like smoking and obesity."
    In an accompanying commentary, French scientists suggested that the results might not be the same in men, since "men and women probably define happiness differently." The researchers said the latest paper was the biggest-ever to evaluate happiness and noted it accounted for potential confounding factors. Some previous studies among older adults have found that women were grumpier than men.
    Peto said the pursuit of happiness is still worthwhile, even if it doesn't extend your life.
    "Happiness is very nice," said Peto, who was relieved to have finished the study after two decades. "I had some of it myself when I was young."
    But not everyone was convinced by the study's conclusions.
    Hazel Newton, 69, said she believed having a positive attitude was instrumental to her recovery from a stroke several years ago.
    "I've always been a glass half-full kind of person and I think that helps keep you healthy," Newton said while enjoying a day of shopping in London with her sister.
    The Sheffield native said it's important to consciously decide to be happy.
    "You always have to enjoy every day," she said. "You never know what's coming."

Thursday, 10 December 2015 22:40
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MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican health authorities approved the first vaccine to gain official acceptance for use against the dengue virus, which sickens about 100 million people every year, mostly in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The federal medical safety agency said Wednesday the vaccine has undergone testing on over 29,000 patients worldwide. It said the vaccine's manufacturer had proved its safety and effectiveness, but did not name the drug.

In a separate statement, the Lyon, France-based Sanofi Pasteur identified the vaccine as Dengvaxia.

Mexico said the vaccine is aimed at people ages 9 to 45 and will be used in areas where the disease is endemic.

According to a World Health Organization report published in late 2014, the vaccine had an average rate of effectiveness of about 60.8 percent in protecting against the four strains of dengue currently circulating. Sanofi said its vaccine was shown to" reduce dengue due to all four serotypes (strains) in two-thirds of the participants," a figure similar to the 65.6 percent rate reported in a study published in September by the New England Journal of Medicine.

That is relatively low for a vaccine. Common vaccines like those for measles and polio are more than 95 percent effective.

But Dengvaxia appeared to be particularly effective in protecting people from the most extreme, potentially life-threatening form of the disease, known as dengue hemorrhagic fever, which can cause internal bleeding, shock, organ failure and death. That form of the disease seems to hit people who have already had one strain of dengue, and then suffer a subsequent infection by a different strain.

Because of that, Mexico said it planned to apply the vaccine in areas were exposure rates to at least one strain were 60 percent or more.

Dr. In-Kyu Yoon, director of the international Dengue Vaccine Initiative, said the drug "may potentially have a significant public health impact," but noted "we still don't know how much Sanofi will charge."

"It probably will work best in those regions and countries that have the highest rate" of dengue exposure, Yoon said.

Sanofi said in its statement that the drug "prevented 9 out of 10 cases of severe dengue and 8 out 10 hospitalizations due to dengue."

Dr. Cuauhtemoc Ruiz, chief of Pan American Health Organizations' immunization program, said that whether the vaccine will be widely used will depend on a cost-benefit analysis. Countries will have to weigh whether another treatment or simply spraying to reduce mosquitoes would prevent more illnesses and deaths for the same money.

Ruiz added that at least five other dengue vaccines are in clinical development.

Mexico's federal medical safety agency, known by its initials as Cofepris, said the vaccine could help prevent 104 deaths and 8,000 hospital admissions and save about $65 million in health expenditures annually. Mexico's Health Department declined to comment on whether the government would supply the vaccine to those who need it most in the country's largely poor, low-lying southern states.

WHO's report said it was unclear how long the vaccine would protect those who receive it.

Mosquitoes transmit the dengue virus. Symptoms include high fevers and severe muscle and joint pain. There's no specific treatment for dengue.

Thursday, 10 December 2015 22:24
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NEW YORK (AP) --
    Two more people in the Bronx have died of Legionnaires' disease, bringing the total of fatalities to 12 in the largest outbreak of the disease in New York City history, officials said Monday.
    There are now 113 reported cases of Legionnaires' in the Bronx, and cooling towers in 18 buildings have tested positive for the legionella bacteria, officials said. While cleaning crews crisscrossed the Bronx, the continued tension between state and city governments threaten to undermine officials' expressions of confidence that the outbreak is tapering off.
    The outbreak has become the city's most significant public health crisis since last fall's Ebola scare. For more than a month now, cases of Legionnaires' - a form of pneumonia especially dangerous for the elderly and for people with underlying health issues - have been reported throughout a section of the South Bronx, the city's poorest neighborhood.
    "We are dealing with a new set of realities we have never experienced that we have never encountered before in this city," said de Blasio, who added that the nation's largest city has had to create "a playbook" on the fly as to how to handle the crisis.
    The identities of the deceased were not released.
    Officials said that all but one of the 12 fatalities was more than 40 years old and all of them had underlying health problems. Because the disease has a 10-day incubation period there can be a lag in reporting cases, but de Blasio said Monday that city health officials believe there hasn't been a new diagnosis since Aug. 3.
    He and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito introduced legislation that mandates inspections of cooling towers, which are rooftop mechanical structures used to cool large buildings. They eject a warm mist that can carry the bacteria.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015 15:48
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BRENHAM, Texas (AP) --
    Blue Bell Creameries has resumed ice cream shipments four months after listeria contamination halted sales and production.
    The Brenham, Texas-based company on Tuesday used Twitter and Facebook to announce its trucks "are on the road again" and filled with ice cream. The messages did not say when and where Blue Bell products would be sold.
    Blue Bell in April voluntarily recalled all products after its treats were linked to 10 listeria illnesses in four states, including three deaths in Kansas.
    The company stopped production and started extensive cleaning and decontamination at its plants in Brenham, Alabama and Oklahoma. Alabama regulators last week said Blue Bell could resume production in Sylacauga (sihl-uh-KAW'-guh).
    Listeria is a bacteria that can cause serious illness.
    Blue Bell didn't immediately return requests for comment Tuesday.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015 15:47
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CHICAGO (AP) --
    Barely 2 years old, Talia Pisano is getting tough treatment for kidney cancer that spread to her brain. She's also getting a chance at having babies of her own someday.
    To battle infertility sometimes caused by cancer treatment, some children's hospitals are trying a futuristic approach: removing and freezing immature ovary and testes tissue, with hopes of being able to put it back when patients reach adulthood and want to start families.
    No one knows yet if it will work.
    It has in adults - more than 30 babies have been born to women who had ovarian tissue removed in adulthood, frozen, and put back after treatment for cancer or other serious conditions. In lab animals, it's worked with frozen and thawed testes tissue.
    But the procedures are still experimental in children who haven't reached puberty, and too new to have been attempted. There are challenges to making immature eggs and sperm from removed tissue suitable for conception. Still, fertility researchers hope to refine the science while the first generation of children whose tissue has been put on ice grows up.
    Families like Talia's are clinging to that optimism. The dark-eyed toddler who loves princesses and play dough had an ovary removed and frozen in April. She was treated for kidney cancer last year but when it spread, doctors started harsher treatment including brain radiation.
    "It seemed very new and pretty amazing that we can do something like this and help her in a bigger way," said her mom, Maria Pisano, of Griffith, Indiana.
    "It definitely brought some peace" and raised hope for Talia's future, Pisano said.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015 15:45
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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) —
    More than 380 people in 26 U.S. states have been diagnosed with a stomach illness tied to Mexican cilantro contaminated by human waste, two federal agencies said Tuesday.
    It's the fourth consecutive summer in which the intestinal infection cyclosporiasis has been reported in the United States. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration are investigating the cause of the latest outbreak, which appears to have begun after May 1.
    The FDA said it suspects the contamination came from "contact with the parasite shed from the intestinal tract of humans" in the growing fields, contaminated water or harvesting, processing and packing activities. It causes diarrhea, nausea and fatigue which can last several weeks to a month or more if untreated.
    Preliminary results indicate cases in Texas and Wisconsin can be traced to cilantro from the state of Puebla, Mexico, which was supplied to restaurants at which some of those who became ill dined, the FDA said Tuesday in an updated posting on its website.

Wednesday, 05 August 2015 15:15
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NEW YORK (AP) —
    Lawmakers are rushing to draft New York's first regulations for a type of heavy-duty rooftop air conditioning equipment amid suspicions that bacteria-laden mist from these units could be the cause of the deadliest known outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in the city's history.
    Seven people have died and at least 86 have fallen ill in the South Bronx since July 10. People can get exposed to Legionella bacteria from a variety of sources, but cooling towers have been implicated in past outbreaks. Testing found five contaminated units in the part of the city where people are getting sick.
    Five things to know about the outbreak:

Wednesday, 05 August 2015 15:14
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SEATTLE (AP) —
     A vast bloom of toxic algae off the West Coast is denser, more widespread and deeper than scientists feared even weeks ago, according to surveyors aboard a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research vessel.
    This coastal ribbon of microscopic algae, up to 40 miles wide and 650 feet deep in places, is flourishing amid unusually warm Pacific Ocean temperatures. It now stretches from at least California to Alaska and has shut down lucrative fisheries. Shellfish managers on Tuesday doubled the area off Washington's coast that is closed to Dungeness crab fishing, after finding elevated levels of marine toxins in tested crab meat.
    So-called "red tides" are cyclical and have happened many times before, but ocean researchers say this one is much larger and persisting much longer, with higher levels of neurotoxins bringing severe consequences for the Pacific seafood industry, coastal tourism and marine ecosystems.
    Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the area now closed to crab fishing includes more than half the state's 157-mile-long coast, and likely will bring a premature end to this year's coastal crab season.
    "We think it's just sitting and lingering out there," said Anthony Odell, a University of Washington research analyst who is part of a NOAA-led team surveying the harmful algae bloom, which was first detected in May. "It's farther offshore, but it's still there."

Wednesday, 05 August 2015 15:12
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NEW YORK (AP) —
    More than 1 in 5 sexually active teen girls have used the morning-after pill — a dramatic increase that likely reflects that it's easier now for teens to buy the emergency contraceptive.
    A report released Wednesday shows teen use of the morning-after pill rose steadily from a decade earlier, when it was 1 in 12. Now, all teens can buy it without a prescription.
    The finding comes from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey that's considered the government's best source of information on teen sex and contraception use.
    The report showed little recent change in most other types of birth control used by teen girls who have had sex. Almost all said they said they've used condoms at some point, and more than half have used the pill.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015 14:34
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