Health Highlights: Nov. 17, 2014

Health Highlights: Nov. 17, 2014

Health Highlights: Nov. 17, 2014

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

First Day of Open Enrollment for Obamacare Goes Smoothly: Officials

About 100,000 Americans submitted applications for health insurance on the first day of open enrollment for coverage in 2015, the federal government said.

That large number shows that the refurbished website for the insurance marketplace was working for most users, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, The New York Times reported.

"The vast majority of people coming to the site were able to get on and do what they were intending to do," Burwell said Sunday on the NBC program "Meet the Press."

Before open enrollment began Saturday, consumers had already been able to view health insurance options for five days. Officials said this opportunity for "window shopping" took pressure off the HealthCare.gov website on Saturday, The Times reported.

About 500,000 people logged in to the website on Saturday, according to Burwell. While the application process went smoothly for new customers, some returning customers had trouble unlocking their accounts and resetting their passwords.

The problems are being investigated, but in an initial assessment, HHS noted: "Many returning consumers had not reset their passwords from earlier this year when all consumers needed to reset. Some of the cases are due to consumers who are unable to recall their accurate usernames. There have also been some cases in which consumers did not have their passwords restored because of simple miscommunication."

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Hand Transplant Study Reveals Brain's Role in Recovery of Feeling

A new study finds that people who've had a hand transplant can recover feeling gradually over a number of years, and that the brain plays an important role in this process.

The findings offer new insight into how the brain processes the sense of touch and can adapt when there is a problem, the Associated Press reported.

The research presented at a Society for Neuroscience meeting could point the way to new rehabilitation techniques for people who suffer brain injury, stroke or even spinal cord damage.

"It holds open the hope that we may be able to facilitate that recovery process," said Dr. Scott Frey, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Missouri in Columbia, the AP reported.

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DEA Agents Make Surprise Visits to NFL Teams' Medical Staffs

U.S. drug enforcement agents made surprise checks on some NFL teams' medical staffs Sunday as part of an investigation into allegations that teams mishandled prescription drugs.

The agents checked three visiting teams' medical staff: the San Francisco 49ers at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.; the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Baltimore-Washington International airport after playing the Redskins; and the Seattle Seahawks after they played at Kansas City, the Associated Press reported.

There were no arrests, according to Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Rusty Payne. He added that the operation was still ongoing and that other teams may be checked later Sunday.

"DEA agents are currently interviewing NFL team doctors in several locations as part of an ongoing investigation into potential violations of the (Controlled Substances Act)," Payne said, the AP reported.

Specific teams were not targeted by the DEA. The checks were done to assess whether visiting NFL teams were generally following federal law.

"Our teams cooperated with the DEA today and we have no information to indicate that irregularities were found," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email, the AP reported.

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Travelers From Mali to Undergo Screening, Monitoring: CDC

As of Monday, airline passengers from Mali will have to undergo enhanced Ebola screening and monitoring when they arrive in the United States, federal officials say.

The anti-Ebola measures are already in place for travelers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Mali was added to the list because there have been a large number of confirmed cases of Ebola in that country in recent days and many people may have been exposed to those patients, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Along with immediate Ebola exposure and symptom assessment, travelers from these countries are subject to 21-day monitoring and movement protocols that include twice daily temperature and symptoms checks in coordination with state or local public health authorities.

There are no direct flights from Mali to the U.S., but about 15 to 20 people arrive in the U.S. from Mali each day after traveling through other countries. Most of these travelers are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents returning home.

Federal officials will work with airlines to ensure that all travelers from Mali land at one of the five airports -- New York JFK, Newark, Washington-Dulles, Chicago-O'Hare, and Atlanta Hartsfield- Jackson -- already performing Ebola screening on passengers from the other West African nations where there are outbreaks of the deadly virus.

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