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Health Highlights: March 12, 2019


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

228 Measles Cases Already in 2019: CDC

The number of measles cases in the United States increased by 22 since last week and now stands at 228, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says in an update.

Measles was once nearly eradicated in the United States, but the emergence of the "anti-vaxxer" movement may be allowing the highly contagious disease to stage a comeback, experts say.

New Hampshire -- with one patient as of March 1 -- joined 11 other states reporting measles cases this year, CNN reported.

The other states are: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

The update includes cases reported by state health departments to the CDC through March 7, and does not include cases reported after that date, CNN reported.

As of Sunday, the number of measles cases in an outbreak linked to Washington state remained at 75, the same number as last week. The outbreak includes patients in Washington, Oregon, Hawaii and Georgia who became infected in Washington.

The number of measles cases in the U.S. so far this year is climbing closer to the 372 cases nationwide in all of 2018, which was the second highest annual number of the highly contagious, vaccine-preventable disease in more than two decades, CNN reported.

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Trump Targets Medicaid, Medicare in Budget

A significant slowdown in Medicaid spending and a large reduction in Medicare are among the health-related cuts proposed in the budget released Monday by the Trump administration.

It calls for Medicaid to change from an entitlement program to state block grants, something previously rejected by a Republican Congress, the Washington Post reported.

The proposal calls for a cut of nearly $1.5 trillion in Medicaid over 10 years and for $1.2 trillion to be added for the block grants or per-person caps that would start in 2021. Under the grants program, states would gain far more freedom to set their own rules about how to cover health care for the poor, according to the Post.

The budget also would eliminate funding for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, which has gone to about three dozen states over the past five years.

As for Medicare, the proposed spending reductions focus on changing payments to doctors and hospitals and renewing efforts to reduce fraud and wasteful billing, the newspaper reported.

The White House budget also follows up on Trump's pledge in last month's State of the Union address to halt the spread of HIV in the United States over the next decade.

An initial $291 million is included next year for communities where the HIV continues to infect people not getting proper treatment. That includes rural areas of seven states, including Mississippi; the District of Columbia; Puerto Rico and 48 hot-spot counties nationwide, the Post reported.

However, the budget would reduce funding for global AIDS programs and cut spending on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by about 10 percent.

Spending on the National Institutes of Health would be reduced by $4.5 billion, with the largest part of the cut affecting the National Cancer Institute. However, funding for childhood cancer research would be boosted by $50 million in the next fiscal year, the Post reported.

Also included in the budget are strategies to control rising prescription drug prices.

Altogether, the Trump budget's $87.1 billion in discretionary funding for U.S. Health and Human Services programs would be 12 percent less than in the spending plan Congress adopted for this fiscal year, the Post reported.

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Pillsbury Recalls 12,000 Cases of Flour Over Salmonella Concerns

More than 12,000 cases of the popular Pillsbury brand flour have been recalled because of possible salmonella contamination.

The recall was announced in a tweet Monday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which advised consumers not to eat the recalled flour, CBS News reported.

The flour, distributed by parent company Hometown Food Co., was sold at retailers including Publix and Winn-Dixie. Both grocery store chains posted recall information on their websites.

They said the recall was for five-pound bags of "Pillsbury Unbleached All Purpose Flour" with expiration dates of April 19, 2020, or April 20, 2020, and the lot numbers 8292 or 8293, CBS News reported.

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Chef Boyardee Chicken and Rice Products Recalled

Nearly 2,900 pounds of Chef Boyardee products mislabeled as chicken and rice have been recalled by Conagra Brands, Inc.

The products actually contain beef ravioli and may contain milk and wheat, which is not declared on the label and could pose a threat to people who are allergic to those ingredients.

The recalled products are 7.5 ounce-canned microwavable bowls of "Chef Boyardee rice with chicken & vegetables" on the label, a package code of 210090151050045L, and a Best By date of Jul082020 on the bottom of the bowl, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

The products, which were packaged on Jan. 16, 2019, and have the establishment number "EST. 794" on the bottom of the bowl, were shipped to stores in Florida, Kentucky and New York.

There have been no confirmed reports of people suffering ill effects after eating the recalled products, FSIS said.

The agency advised consumers who bought the products to throw them away or return them to the place of purchase.

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Import Alert on Genetically Engineered Salmon Lifted by FDA

An import alert that prevented genetically engineered salmon from entering the United States has been lifted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In 2015, the FDA deemed the AquaAdvantage Salmon safe, marking the first U.S. approval of a genetically engineered animal intended for food, CNN reported.

But in 2016, Congress said the salmon could not be sold in the United States until the FDA finalized labeling guidelines to inform consumers the product was genetically engineered. That's when the FDA implemented the import alert, CNN reported.

Also in 2016, Congress passed a law directing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to set a national mandatory standard for disclosing bioengineered foods. That standard was issued last December.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said because of the 2016 law and the USDA's new standard, the FDA "no longer has the authority to issue labeling guidance," CNN reported.

"However, the FDA believes this Congressional mandate has been satisfied by the USDA's issuance of final regulations implementing that law in late 2018 because the law and regulations require that human food containing GE [genetically engineered] salmon bear labeling indicating that it is bioengineered," Gottlieb said in a statement.

The FDA will now permit importation of AquaAdvantage Salmon eggs, produced by AquaBounty, to the company's facility in Indiana to be raised into salmon for food, CNN reported.

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