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Health Highlights: April 29, 2015

German Measles Eliminated From the Americas: WHO Meat Producer Tyson Will Stop Using Antibiotics in Chickens by 2017 Weight Watchers Founder Jean Nidetch Dies at 91

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

German Measles Eliminated From the Americas: WHO

German measles, which was declared eliminated from the United States in 2004, has now been eliminated from all of North and South America, according to the World Health Organization.

WHO officials said it has been more than five years since a case of German measles originated in the Americas. Now, the only cases are brought in from other parts of the world, the Associated Press reported.

German measles -- or rubella -- is an infection caused by a virus that produces a red rash. Symptoms are usually mild, with fever, aching joints, swollen glands -- and a rash.

But German measles can pose serious risks to pregnant women because it can cause miscarriage or birth defects, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

German measles isn't the same as measles (rubeola), which triggered a widespread outbreak earlier this year with 166 people infected from 19 states and the District of Columbia, according to U.S. health officials.

While German measles and measles share some characteristics, including the red rash, German measles is caused by a different virus than measles, and it's not as infectious or severe as measles, according to the Mayo Clinic.

German measles is the third infectious disease to be eliminated from North and South America. The other two are smallpox and polio, the AP reported.


Tyson to Stop Using Antibiotics in Chickens by 2017

Tyson Foods, a major U.S. meat producer, said on Tuesday that it would cease using antibiotics in its chickens by 2017, The New York Times reported.

Tyson supplies chicken to the McDonald's restaurant chain, which in March announced that it would slowly end the use of antibiotics important to human medicine in chickens in its supply chains over the next two years.

Tyson has already been working to curb antibiotic use, stopping use in hatcheries in 2014 and using antibiotic-free feed this year, the Times said.

Health experts, including those at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have long called for an end to the overuse of antibiotics in poultry and livestock because it can lead to antibiotic-resistant germs in humans.

"Antibiotic-resistant infections are a global health concern," Donnie Smith, president and chief executive of Tyson Foods, said in a statement. He said Tyson wants "to do our part to responsibly reduce human antibiotics on the farm so these medicines can continue working when they're needed to treat illness."


Weight Watchers Founder Jean Nidetch Dies at 91

Jean Nidetch, whose battles with obesity prompted her to start Weight Watchers International five decades ago, died Wednesday at the age of 91, the Associated Press reported.

In 1961, the Brooklyn-born Nidetch weighed 214 pounds and had fought obesity for most of her young adult life. Gradually picking up tips on healthy weight maintenance, Nidetech said she was turned off by the lack of camaraderie between people attending the weight-loss clinics of the day.

So, she invited six overweight friends into her living room in Queens, and through a sharing of stories and support Nidetch reached her goal weight of 142 pounds by late 1962.

Those living room meetings grew in popularity, the AP said, and Nidetch helped turn the system into Weight Watchers International a year later.

Along with two co-founders, Nidetch sold the company to the H.J. Heinz Co. for $71 million in 1978. According to the AP, the Weight Watchers plan worked for a lifetime for Nidetch -- she said she never topped 150 pounds again.

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