Health Highlights: Dec. 11, 2014

Ebola Vaccine Trial in Switzerland Suspended California's Whooping Cough Outbreak Worst in 70 Years Teen With Antibiotic Reaction Likely to Survive: Doctor One-Fifth of Americans Have Medical Debt: Report EPA Issues New Rule for Certain Chemicals in Paints, Glues

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

Ebola Vaccine Trial in Switzerland Suspended

Tests on an Ebola vaccine have been temporarily halted after some participants reported concerning side effects, Swiss scientists say.

The clinical trial involving 59 people began in November, but was suspended after four cases of mild joint pain in the hands and feet of volunteers who received the vaccine 10 to 15 days earlier, the Associated Press reported.

The trial was suspended "as a precautionary measure," and is scheduled to resume in January after a review of the side effects, according to a statement released Thursday by the Hopitaux Universitaires de Geneve.

The same vaccine is being tested in the United States, Canada, Germany and Gabon. It was developed by the Canadian government and is licensed by NewLink and Merck, the AP reported.


California's Whooping Cough Outbreak Worst in 70 Years

The current whooping cough epidemic in California is the worst the state has experienced in since the 1940s.

Between Jan. 1 and Nov. 26, there were 9,935 cases of whooping cough reported to the state's public health department, the highest number in 70 years. One infant has died in the outbreak, the Associated Press reported.

One reason for the severe outbreak may be a vaccine introduced in the 1990s that doesn't last as long as the old one and may not prevent people from spreading whooping cough.

Whooping cough (pertussis) is cyclical and peaks every three to five years as immunity from the vaccine or disease weakens. The last whooping cough epidemic in California was in 2010, the AP reported.


Teen With Antibiotic Reaction Likely to Survive: Doctor

A California teen who developed an allergic drug reaction that caused her body to burn from inside out is likely to survive but could end up with vision loss and other health problems, according to a doctor.

Yaasmeen Castanada, 19, developed the rare, potentially deadly reaction -- called Stevens-Johnson Syndrome -- after she took a friend's antibiotic on Thanksgiving. Up to 25 percent of adults who develop the condition die, USA Today reported.

Her chance of survival is strong. But her treatment is challenging because the reaction causes the top layer of skin to die and shed, resulting in blisters and open wounds, Dr. Victor Joe told CNN. Joe is director of the burn center at the University of California, Irvine Medical Center, where Castanada is being treated,

Her body was wrapped in a special dressing that covers the open wounds while allowing the skin to heal without having to remove bandages to clean the wounds, Joe said.

"Patients can experience problems with taste, swallowing, eyesight and sexual functions can be affected," Joe told CNN. "In Yaasmeen's case, we are particularly concerned because her eyes have been affected. This can cause scarring of the corneas, which could lead to permanent blindness. We are trying to prevent that from happening."


One-Fifth of Americans Have Medical Debt: Report

A new report says about one-fifth of American consumers, or nearly 43 million people, have unpaid medical bills.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that the average amount of medical debt is $1,766, the Associated Press reported.

The federal regulator also found that many Americans with unpaid medical bills are in that situation because they couldn't understand the notices they received from hospitals and insurance companies about the cost of treatment, the AP reported.

Having medical debt can lead to lower credit scores, making it more difficult for people to get loans to buy cars or homes, the AP reported.

"When people fall ill and end up at the hospital with unexpected bills, far too often they have entered into a financial maze," CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a speech to be delivered Thursday.


EPA Issues New Rule for Certain Chemicals in Paints, Glues

A new rule to protect Americans from chemicals that can cause birth defects, blood toxicity and other health problems was announced Wednesday by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The seven ethylene glycol ethers or glymes chemicals are currently used in consumer products such as paints, inks and glues. Under the new rule, companies will be required to have any proposed new uses of these chemicals reviewed by the EPA for possible harmful effects to people or the environment.

"Today's action is part of our continuing efforts to help ensure that chemicals in products we use every day are safe for the American public," Jim Jones, assistant administrator for chemical safety and pollution prevention at the EPA, said in an agency news release.

"Finalizing this action could prevent an increase in the use of these chemicals and reduce human exposure through ingestion and inhalation," he added.

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