Health Highlights: Aug 3, 2015

Health Highlights: Aug 3, 2015

Health Highlights: Aug 3, 2015

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

New Standards Will Reduce U.S. Power Plant Carbon Pollution: White House

The first national standards for carbon pollution from power plants in the United States were announced Monday by President Barack Obama. Power plants are the largest source of carbon emissions in the country.

Obama said the Clean Power Act is a major step in his administration's efforts to fight climate change. Previous efforts have focused on reducing soot and other toxic emissions but, until now, power plants could release as much carbon pollution as they wanted.

The new plan's goal is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

The Clean Power Act and other anti-pollution measures will provide significant health benefits, the White House said, reducing premature deaths from power plant emissions by nearly 90 percent in 2030 compared to 2005, and decreasing pollutants that can trigger asthma attacks in children by more than 70 percent.

In actual numbers, the White House also estimates that the Clean Power Plan will prevent 3,600 premature deaths, prevent 90,000 asthma attacks in children, and prevent 300,000 missed work and school days, according to the White House.

In the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled, and climate change increases their risk of hospitalization.

Extreme weather events -- such as severe droughts, wildfires and record heat waves -- and rising sea levels are affecting communities nationwide. Fourteen of the 15 warmest years on record have occurred in the first 15 years of this century, and 2014 was the warmest year ever, the government said.

The most vulnerable Americans -- including children, seniors, people with heart or lung disease, and people living in poverty -- are most at risk from the effects of climate change.


Two New Ebola Cases in Sierra Leone

Two new cases of Ebola have been confirmed in an area of Sierra Leone which had been free of the deadly virus for months.

The two patients are relatives of a man who died of Ebola last week in the Tonkolili District. The man contracted the disease in the capital and then traveled to his home village, the Associated Press reported.

The man was treated for fever at the local hospital, but no one called the Ebola emergency number. After the man died, authorities quarantined 500 people in an attempt to contain the spread of the disease. However, it's feared that more cases of Ebola will be diagnosed.

"We now know where the virus is and we are tracking its movement, by surrounding, containing and eradicating its last remaining chain of transmission," OB Sisay, of the National Ebola Response Center, said, the AP reported.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is in Sierra Leone to assess the effects of the Ebola outbreak and to determine the measures required to make the country Ebola-free.


Puerto Rico Facing Health Care Crisis

Puerto Rico is on the verge of a health care crisis as it faces cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, and doctors abandon the island.

More than 3,000 doctors left Puerto Rico over five years and the U.S. government is scheduled to reduce payments to Medicare Advantage plans in Puerto Rico by 11 percent at the start of 2016, The New York Times reported.

Three-quarters of Medicare users in Puerto Rico are enrolled in Advantage, and many of them are poor and have chronic illnesses.

"These are a cascade of cuts that will have disastrous, gigantic implications," Dennis Rivera, chairman of the Puerto Rico Healthcare Crisis Coalition, a lobby group of doctors, hospitals, health care advocates, unions and insurance companies, told The Times.

"Health care in Puerto Rico is headed for a collapse," he warned.

"If we pay the same Medicare taxes and Social Security taxes, we should be treated equally," Rivera said.


U.S. In Vitro Fertilization Pioneer Dies

A doctor who helped pioneer in vitro fertilization in the United States has died.

Dr. Howard Jones, 104, died of respiratory failure Friday at Eastern Virginia Medical Center, the Associated Press reported.

The work conducted by Jones and his late wife, Dr. Georgeanna Jones, at the medical center led to the first American child born as a result of in vitro fertilization. To date, in vitro fertilization has led to more than 5 million births worldwide.

The Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine at the Eastern Virginia Medical Center is named in honor of the couple.

In 1984, Jones helped establish an ethics committee within the American Fertility Society, now called the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the AP reported.


NYC Legionnaires' Disease Outbreak Claims 4th Victim

New numbers released Saturday by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene show that the continuing outbreak of Legionnaires' disease has now claimed a fourth life, with 65 people now infected.

City health officials note, however, that 20 people have been successfully treated for the respiratory ailment, USA Today reported.

The illness is typically spread when people breathe in vapor or mist from a contaminated plumbing system, and USA Today says that five buildings -- including Lincoln Hospital, Concourse plaza and the Opera House Hotel -- have tested positive for the bacteria.

All of the five affected sites are attempting to rid the buildings of the contamination, and are also required to give the city plans detailing how they would prevent future outbreaks.
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