Latest Morning Briefing Stories
Pointing to the decline in traditional smoking numbers, some advocates say that intense regulations on vaping could actually backfire and cause more harm. In other public health news: 9/11 responders’ health, well-child checkups, prostate cancer, suicide rates, baby powder, and more.
Experts caution that it is still too early to understand how big an economic impact the virus will have, but the stock market took a hit on Monday on news of how quickly the virus was spreading within China.
News stories from across the country look at where patients are being monitored over concerns of infections.
Information technology company Practice Fusion admits to soliciting and receiving kickbacks of nearly $1 million from a “major opioid company.” The Department of Justice says this is the first time criminal action has been taken against an electronic health records vendor over its role in the opioid crisis.
Most teens seeking care aren’t getting permanent surgeries, but rather injections that pause the process of puberty. A new wave of bills from conservative states, including South Dakota and Kentucky, want to make it illegal for doctors to give such care, despite testimony that the injections help diminish depression and suicidal thoughts. “They’re not listening to any health care providers,” said Dr. Alexis Chávez, a psychiatrist. “And they’re advancing something that’s very dangerous to make a statement.”
A judge is hearing testimony about how Guantanamo Bay inmates were treated, including disturbing accounts about medical professionals’ behavior toward the prisoners. “The physicians were present in interrogations that were harmful and life-threatening, and that violates the first principle of medical ethics: First, do no harm,” said Stephen Xenakis, a psychiatrist and retired Army general.
“With the Ebola epidemic, it was urging quarantines, travel bans, overreacting in all the ways that would be counterproductive. I would hate to see that now,” said Lawrence Gostin, a senior professor at Georgetown University, of President Donald Trump’s past responses to outbreaks. Public officials say the coronavirus isn’t spreading in the U.S. yet, and that threat for Americans remains low. Still, anxiety and panic over the illness is ramping up as the possible cases in the U.S. climbs past 100.
The death toll from the virus climbs past 100, with thousands of more cases reported. Chinese officials are trying to stem a tide of criticism over how they are handling the outbreak. U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci criticized Chinese leaders for not inviting U.S. and other international investigative agencies to join them in researching the new virus.
Unlike other health care issues, the rise in insulin prices isn’t that complicated. The personal stories of patients rationing insulin with fatal results paints a clear picture of pharmaceutical companies profiting that candidates can leap upon. In other pharmaceutical news: Democrats target Republicans over high drug costs, presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg wants to go after patent protections, pharma bro Martin Shkreli faces new fraud accusations, and more.
The new rule would allow officials to deny permanent legal status to immigrants who are likely to need public assistance, like Medicaid or food stamps. In the past, only substantial and sustained monetary help or long-term institutionalization counted against applicants.
At least 91 out of 95 counties in Virginia have declared themselves “sanctuaries” against gun control laws passed by the state. The battle in Virginia has drawn national attention. Gun violence news comes out of Tennessee and Texas, as well.
The Trump administration is instituting a rule that could result in nearly 700,000 people across the country losing their food stamps. Those who rely on the benefits, those who administer them, and activists who try to protect vulnerable populations are expecting a grim fallout.
Researchers talked to patients who had been restrained, and they characterize the experience as “traumatic as hell.” But emergency departments are more and more handling mental health patients in an over-stressed system, and there needs to be a way to control an agitated person. In other public health news: “doctor dogs,” in vitro fertilization, severe combined immunodeficiency disease, hospital grown recalls, and more.
As the living memory of World War II and the Holocaust fades, the institutions created to guard against a repeat of such bloody conflicts, and such barbarism, are under increasing strain. “More and more we seem to be having trouble connecting our historical knowledge with our moral choices today,” said Piotr Cywinski, the director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. It was a solemn day as survivors and others marked the anniversary of the liberation.
Smaller pharmacies can’t compete with the big chains, so they’re heading toward a status as relics. In other pharmaceutical news: Americans’ tough choice when insurers don’t cover a certain drug, hospitals create their own drugs, and a battle over a preterm birth drug.
Nearly a month after discovering the first cases, Chinese health officials have made little progress in stopping its spread. Experts say China’s skills in certain basic public-health tasks, such as outbreak investigations, are uneven. So what does all that mean for China’s investments in becoming a world leader in health? Meanwhile, Chinese scientists are testing an HIV drug to treat coronavirus symptoms. And media outlets take a look at the science behind the outbreak and response.
Quarantines of the level China instituted on the Hubei province lock in the sick and the healthy together, are nearly impossible to maintain, stress governmental resources, and sow a distrust with the government at a crucial point in the crisis. “This is just mind-boggling,” said University of Michigan medical historian Howard Markel. The death toll from the illness in China climbs to 80.
The total number of confirmed cases in the United States now sits at five. But experts say it’s unlikely Americans are in any real danger right now. “Don’t panic unless you’re paid to panic,” said Brandon Brown, an epidemiologist. “Public health workers should be on the lookout. The government should be ready to provide resources. … But for everyone else: Breathe.”
President Donald Trump cemented his relationship with the anti-abortion movement when he became the first sitting president to speak in person at the annual March for Life last week. On the same day, his administration announced that it would give California 30 days to lift a requirement that insurers cover abortion or that federal funds would be cut off from the state. Gov. Gavin Newsom dismissed the threat.
Critics of the legislation say that it perpetuates myths about abortions and that there are already safeguards in place for protecting infants. News on abortion laws comes out of Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia, as well.