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Health Highlights: Sept. 10, 2019


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

Sixth U.S. Death from Vaping-Related Lung Illness Confirmed

A severe lung illness linked with vaping has been confirmed as the cause of death of a person in Kansas, state officials said Tuesday, making it the sixth such death in the United States.

It was unclear what the Kansas patient, who was over 50 and had a history of health problems, had been vaping, NBC News reported.

The other five confirmed vaping-related deaths occurred in Illinois, Indiana, Oregon, Minnesota and California. The number of cases of vaping-related respiratory illnesses in the United States has doubled, with 471 confirmed or under investigation across the country.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised people to avoid vaping while investigators try to determine what's causing the respiratory illnesses, NBC News reported.

"It's time to stop vaping," Dr. Lee Norman, secretary for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said in a news release. "If you or a loved one is vaping, please stop."

Health officials have so far been unable to pinpoint any one brand, ingredient or substance that could explain the illnesses, NBC News reported.

The main suspect at this point is an oily chemical called vitamin E acetate, according to the CDC.

"The focus of our investigation is narrowing and that's great news, but we're still faced with complex questions in this outbreak that will take time to answer," Ileana Arias, acting deputy director of non-infectious diseases at the CDC, said during a recent media briefing.

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Poverty Rate Drops, But Fewer Americans Have Health Insurance: Report

The percentage of Americans living in poverty declined in 2018, but the rate of those without health insurance increased, according to a Census Bureau report.

It found that 11.8% of people lived in poverty last year, the lowest level since 2001. Median household income in 2018 was $63,200, essentially the same as 2017 after adjusting for inflation, The New York Times reported.

Meanwhile, about 27.5 million people (8.5% of the population) lacked health insurance for all of 2018, up from 7.9% in 2017, which was the first increase since the Affordable Care Act took full effect in 2014.

That increase was at least partly due to the Trump administration's efforts to undermine that law, according to experts.

"In a period of continued economic growth, continued job growth, you would certainly hope that you wouldn't be going backwards when it comes to insurance coverage," Sharon Parrott, senior vice president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told The Times.

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Don't Use E-Cigarettes: AMA

Americans should not use electronic cigarettes while health officials investigate cases of severe lung illness that may be linked to the devices, the American Medical Association said Monday.

"In light of increasing reports of e-cigarette-associated lung illnesses across the country, the AMA urges the public to avoid the use of e-cigarette products until health officials further investigate and understand the cause of these illnesses. The AMA recommends anyone who has recently used e-cigarette products to seek medical care promptly if they experience any adverse health effects, particularly coughing, shortness of breath or chest pain," AMA President Dr. Patrice Harris said in a statement.

"The AMA also calls on physicians to make sure their patients are aware of the dangers of e-cigarettes, including toxins and carcinogens, and swiftly report any suspected cases of lung illness associated with e-cigarette use to their state or local health department," Harris added.

"The e-cigarette-related lung illnesses currently sweeping across the country reaffirm our belief that the use of e-cigarettes and vaping is an urgent public health epidemic that must be addressed. We must not stand by while e-cigarettes continue to go unregulated," Harris said.

"We urge the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to speed up the regulation of e-cigarettes and remove all unregulated products from the market. We also call on the FDA to immediately ban flavors, as well as marketing practices, that enhance the appeal of e-cigarette products to youth," Harris concluded.

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California Passes Laws to Limit Fake Medical Exemptions for Vaccines

Bills to reduce fake medical exemptions for school children's vaccinations were signed into law Monday by California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

"This legislation provides new tools to better protect public health, and does so in a way that ensures parents, doctors, public health officials and school administrators all know the rules of the road moving forward," Newsom said in a statement, the Associated Press reported.

The new rules are needed to "keep children safe from preventable diseases," said Democratic Sen. Richard Pan, of San Francisco.

Enforcement will begin next year, which means that doctors who previously granted a high number of medical exemptions for vaccinations won't be investigated, the AP reported.

Officials will have the power to revoke any medical exemptions written by a doctor who's faced disciplinary action.

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