Health Highlights: Nov. 19, 2014

Health Highlights: Nov. 19, 2014

Health Highlights: Nov. 19, 2014

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

Worst-Case Ebola Scenario Won't Happen: CDC

The worst-case scenario for the Ebola outbreak in West Africa will not happen, the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.

So far, there have been more than 14,000 Ebola cases in Africa. But the CDC predicted in September that the number of Ebola cases could reach as many as 1.4 million by mid-January if adequate measures were not taken to control the epidemic, the Associated Press reported.

"We don't think projections from the summer will come to pass." CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said at a U.S. Senate hearing. He did not offer new estimates.

The estimate given by the CDC in September was based on the situation in late August, before there was a significant increase in international medical aid, the AP reported.


Major Effort to Find Ebola Treatments Announced by Coalition

Plans to test experimental drugs for Ebola and to collect blood plasma from survivors of the disease in order to treat new patients in West Africa were announced by an alliance of aid groups and private companies.

There are no approved drugs or vaccines for Ebola, which has killed about 5,000 people in West Africa.

Blood plasma from Ebola survivors contains antibodies against the disease. A number of Ebola patients have received plasma from survivors and recovered. However, the effectiveness of plasma from Ebola survivors needs to be confirmed, which is the goal of a study to start within a month, the Associated Press reported.

About $5.7 million will be given by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to scale up production of the treatments for the project in Ebola-affected countries in West Africa, and more than a dozen companies, universities and other organizations are providing supplies, staff and money.

Last week, Doctors Without Borders said three of its West Africa treatment centers would host studies of experimental medicines and plasma, the AP reported.

One of the drugs to be tested by both groups is the antiviral medicine brincidofovir, which was developed by North Carolina-based Chimerix Inc. to treat other types of viruses. Lab tests suggest it may be effective against Ebola and it has been tried in a few Ebola patients.

"We said to them, well, if money was no constraint, how much could you make?' and they gave us a number," Bill Gates told the AP. "So we said, `OK, we'll take the risk that maybe nobody will ever buy this from you. So we'll help you scale up the manufacturing.'"

In order to collect plasma, donors' blood will be filtered through a machine to remove small amounts of plasma and the remainder of the blood will be returned to the donor. This means that someone can donate plasma as often as every two weeks.

Plasma donors and recipients must have compatible blood types, and donors need to be screened to confirm they are cured of Ebola and don't have other diseases such as HIV, hepatitis or syphilis. The project in Africa will also use an experimental system that inactivates viruses in the blood, the AP reported.

One person who plans to donate plasma and to recruit others for the study is Dr. Ada Igonoh of Nigeria, who got Ebola from a patient but recovered.

"Survivors will be willing if they understand the goal," she told the AP.


Youngsters Still Being Targeted by Sugary Drink Makers

American children are seeing fewer ads for soft drinks and other sugary beverages, but manufacturers are still spending huge amounts of money to promote their unhealthy products, a new study says.

Compared to 2010, children ages 6-11 viewed 39 percent fewer TV ads for sugary drinks, while teens ages 12-19 viewed 30 percent fewer ads, according to the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, NBC News reported.

Over the same period, there was a 72 percent decrease in sugary drink ads on websites primarily visited by youth, the researchers told an American Public Health Association meeting.

However, beverage makers spent $866 million to advertise unhealthy drinks in 2013, which is four times more than they spent marketing water and pure fruit juice. And while companies pledged to reduce calories, the typical eight-ounce children's drink contains 60 calories and 16 grams of sugar, which is more sugar than a child should have in an entire day, NBC News reported.

"Despite promises by major beverage companies to be part of the solution in addressing childhood obesity, our report shows that companies continue to market their unhealthy products directly to children and teens," study leader Jennifer Harris said.

"They have also rapidly expanded marketing in social and mobile media that are popular with young people, but much more difficult for parents to monitor," she added.


Workplace Obesity Website Taken Down by CDC

A website that helped American employers determine the financial costs of having overweight workers was taken down by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after complaints from people who said it promoted discrimination based on body size and even led to the firing of some overweight people.

The "obesity cost calculator" and other content once posted on the Lean Works! website is currently under review, CDC spokesperson Brittany Behm wrote in an email to NBC News.

"The recent attention to the Lean Works! program caused us to put this part of the website at the top of the list for review, hence why it is currently down," Behm wrote. "The potential misuse of this information is something we will certainly consider in our upcoming content review."

The CDC's decision is a "victory" for people who are "committed to ending discrimination based on body size," Joanne Ikeda, nutritionist emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, told NBC News.
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