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Health Highlights: Feb. 28, 2019


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

Flu Shots Don't Cause Miscarriages: Study

A flu shot cannot cause a pregnant woman to miscarry, researchers say.

"This is a very definitive study for a recent, relevant time period of flu and should remove all doubts a woman might have about whether it is safe to be vaccinated during pregnancy," said co-investigator Dr. Edward Belongia, director of the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Population Health at the Marshfield Clinic Research Institute in Wisconsin, CNN reported.

The findings are based on an examination of the 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 flu seasons and were presented Wednesday to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

The study comes a time when there is significant focus in the U.S. on the consequences of certain groups telling people to ignore vaccine recommendations, CNN reported.

Not only is a flu shot during pregnancy safe, it's necessary, said lead investigator James Donahue, a senior epidemiologist at Marshfield.

"There's lots of evidence of the severity of flu for a pregnant woman, more chance of hospitalization, more risk of death, especially as she enters the second and third trimester," Donahue said, CNN reported.

"There are also many studies that show the mother's vaccination will help protect the newborn baby from flu, which is critical since the baby cannot be vaccinated until 6 months of age," he added.

CDC guidelines emphasize the importance of a flu shot during pregnancy.

"The findings provide a high level of reassurance regarding the safety of influenza vaccine in early pregnancy and through pregnancy and support the current recommendations of an influenza vaccination for all pregnant women," Donahue said, CNN reported.

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Robotically-Assisted Surgical Devices Not Approved for Cancer Surgery: FDA

The use of robotically-assisted surgical devices for breast removal and other cancer-related surgeries is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because there is no proof of its safety or effectiveness in such cases, the agency says in a warning to doctors and patients.

"Certain patients with cancer may require surgical procedures to treat or prevent the spread of cancer in their body. These procedures are often associated with improved survival outcomes for these patients," Dr. Terri Cornelison, assistant director for the health of women in the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in an agency news release.

"However, today we are warning patients and providers that the use of robotically-assisted surgical devices for any cancer-related surgery has not been granted marketing authorization by the agency, and therefore the survival benefits to patients when compared to traditional surgery have not been established," Cornelison said.

Robotically-assisted surgical devices are used to perform a variety of surgical procedures through small incisions, and this type of surgery may help reduce pain, blood loss, scarring, infection and recovery time.

But in "the case of robotically-assisted surgical devices and cancer-related uses such as mastectomy (breast removal), we are aware of scientific literature reporting that surgeons have been using the device for uses not granted marketing authorization by the FDA," Cornelison said.

"We want doctors and patients to be aware of the lack of evidence of safety and effectiveness for these uses so they can make better informed decisions about their cancer treatment and care."

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Man Who Helped Expose Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment Dies

Bill Jenkins, who played a major role in revealing the Tuskegee syphilis experiment to the public and halting it, has died at age 73.

The epidemiologist died Feb. 17 in Charleston, S.C., and his death was confirmed by the Morehouse School of Medicine, where he worked for many years, CNN reported.

In the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, hundreds of black men with syphilis were intentionally left untreated without their knowledge. Many of them passed the sexually transmitted disease on to their wives, who then passed it on to their children.

The study began in 1931 and was halted in 1972 after Jenkins and others exposed it.

Jenkins began his career in 1967 as one of the first black Americans in the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. He learned about the Tuskegee syphilis experiment in 1968 and was one of the people who brought the study to public attention to try to stop it, CNN reported.

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Texas Politician Behind Anti-Vaxx Bill Thinks Measles Can Be Treated With Antibiotics

Legislation to allow Texans to opt out of childhood vaccinations is being proposed by state representative Bill Zedler, who mistakenly believes measles can be treated with antibiotics.

"They want to say people are dying of measles. Yeah, in Third World countries they're dying of measles," Zedler (R-Arlington) said in the Texas Observer, according to CNN.

"Today, with antibiotics and that kind of stuff, they're not dying in America," Zedler said.

Measles is a highly contagious virus that can be deadly. There is no treatment. Antibiotics fight bacterial infections and can't kill viruses, CNN reported.

Six measles outbreaks in the United States, including one in Texas, are now being monitored by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Bachman Pretzels Recalled Due to Undeclared Milk

One lot of Bachman pretzels is being recalled because it contains undeclared milk, which could trigger a serious or life-threatening reaction in people with an allergy or severe sensitivity to milk.

The recall by Utz Quality Foods is for 10-ounce Twist Pretzel packages with UPC code 0-77817-10580-8 and an expiration date of JUL 22 199 ED. The packages were sold in Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia.

No illnesses linked with the recalled pretzels have been reported, according to Utz.

Consumers with the recalled pretzels should throw them away or return them to the store for a refund or exchange. For more information, call Utz at 1-800-367-7629.

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