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Health Highlights: Feb. 22, 2021

Health Highlights: Feb. 22, 2021

Bone Cancer Survivor Selected for SpaceX Flight

Bone cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaux says her battle with the disease helped prepare her to serve as crew medical officer on a SpaceX flight later this year that's being used as a charitable fundraiser for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Arceneaux is joining billionaire Jared Isaacman, who wants to raise $200 million for the hospital. He offered one seat on the SpaceX Dragon capsule to St. Jude, and there will be two yet-to-be chosen contest winners, the Associated Press reported.

St. Jude selected Arceneaux, 29, to occupy its seat. She's a former patient who was hired as a physician assistant last spring. She'll become the youngest American in space, and also the first in space with a prosthesis.

At age 10, Arceneaux had surgery at St. Jude to replace her knee and get a titanium rod in her left thigh bone.

"My battle with cancer really prepared me for space travel," Arceneaux told the AP. "It made me tough, and then also I think it really taught me to expect the unexpected and go along for the ride."

Arceneaux said she wants to show her young patients and other cancer survivors that "the sky is not even the limit anymore," and added that "it's going to mean so much to these kids to see a survivor in space."

Listeria Outbreak Spurs Recall of Queso Fresco cheeses

All Queso Fresco cheeses made by El Abuelito Cheese, Inc. have been recalled after being linked to a listeria outbreak in four states, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

There have been seven illnesses so far reported, with four in Maryland, one in Connecticut, one in New York and one in Virginia. All seven patients were hospitalized.

The recall covers all Queso Fresco products -- including El Abuelito, Rio Grande, and Rio Lindo brand queso frescos -- that have "sell by" dates through 03/28/21 and were distributed in Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. A full list of the recalled products can be found here.

Consumers, restaurants, and retailers should not eat, sell, or serve the recalled products, the FDA said.

Consumersshould be especially vigilant about cleaning and sanitizing any surfaces and containers that may have come in contact with the recalled cheeses, the agency advised.

Listeria can survive in refrigerated temperatures and easily spreads to other foods and surfaces.

U.S. COVID Hospitalizations at Lowest Level Since November

The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the United States late last week was the lowest since early November, data from The COVID Tracking Project show.

There were about 59,800 COVID-19 patients in hospitals nationwide on Friday, a 55% decrease from a peak of more than 132,470 on Jan. 6, and the first time since Nov. 9 that the number was below 60,000, CNN reported.

Since hitting all-time highs around mid-January, daily new cases and deaths have also been decreasing.

Despite these positive trends, public health experts are urging faster vaccinations before more transmissible variants have a chance to spread and possibly reverse recent progress against the pandemic, CNN reported.

"This is why we're telling people to not stop masking, not stop avoiding indoor social gatherings quite yet, because we don't really know what's going to happen with this variant," Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency medicine physician with Rhode Island's Brown University, told CNN on Saturday. "And we saw what happened last winter when we didn't take COVID seriously enough."

The United State's test positivity rate -- the percentage of tests taken that turn out to be positive -- averaged about 4.8% over the last week as of early Saturday, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

That's the first time the average has dropped below 5% since October, and it's far below a winter peak of about 13.6% near the start of January, CNN reported.

All British Adults Should Have First COVID-19 Shot by July 31: Government

Every adult in Britain should get a first coronavirus vaccination by the end of July, instead of the previous target of September, the British government said Sunday.

It also said everyone aged 50 and older and people with underlying health conditions should get the first of their two shots by April 15, instead of the previous goal of May 1, CBS News reported.

The early success of Britain's vaccination effort is welcome news for a country that has had more than 120,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest toll in Europe. More than 17.5 million people, a third of U.K. adults, have had at least one vaccine shot since inoculations began on Dec. 8, CBS News reported.

Britain is delaying giving second doses until 12 weeks after the first, rather than three to four weeks, to give more people partial protection quickly. The approach has been criticized in some countries -- and by Pfizer, which says it does not have any data to support the interval -- but it is backed by the U.K. government's scientific advisers.The announcements were made as the government prepares a "cautious" reopening plan that will be outlined in Parliament on Monday.

As of March 8, many children will return to school and nursing home residents will be able to have one visitor. However, it's unlikely that nonessential shopping and outdoor socializing will be given the green light before April, CBS News reported.

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