Health Highlights: Dec. 15, 2014
Ruling Blocking Arizona Abortion Law Stands: Supreme Court N.Y. Toddler Dies From Liquid Nicotine Poisoning Hockey Star Sidney Crosby Has the Mumps Health Insurance Websites Increasingly Busy Ahead of Deadline
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Ruling Blocking Arizona Abortion Law Stands: Supreme Court
A lower court ruling temporarily blocking an Arizona law limiting the use of an abortion drug was upheld Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Under the 2012 law, abortion providers must adhere to a 2000 Food and Drug Administration protocol for mifepristone, also called RU-486, that calls for the drug to be given in higher doses than is common today, and only in the first seven weeks of pregnancy, The New York Times reported.
Since the FDA protocol was released, doctors have found that a lower dose of RU-486 is effective and that the drug is safe to take through the ninth week of pregnancy.
Arizona officials said their law was meant to "protect women from the dangerous and potentially deadly off-label use of abortion-inducing drugs," The Times reported.
The Supreme Court gave no reasons for its decision.
N.Y. Toddler Dies From Liquid Nicotine Poisoning
A 1-year-old child in New York State is believed to be the first youngster in the United States to die of poisoning from liquid nicotine, the substance used in electronic cigarettes.
Police said the toddler was found unresponsive last Tuesday after ingesting liquid nicotine at a home in Fort Plain, N.Y., and later died in hospital, ABC News reported.
The death is believed to be a "tragic accident," according to a statement released by Fort Plain police. They did not say whether the liquid nicotine was associated with an e-cigarette.
With the growing popularity of e-cigarettes, health officials are concerned there could be more fatal incidents like this one if steps aren't taken to protect children, ABC News reported.
Brightly-colored liquid nicotine comes in flavors such as gummy bear or cotton candy, which is appealing to youngsters, health officials warn.
"One teaspoon of liquid nicotine could be lethal to a child, and smaller amounts can cause severe illness, often requiring trips to the emergency department," the American Association of Poison Control centers in a statement, ABC News reported. "Despite the dangers these products pose to children, there are currently no standards set in place that require child-proof packaging."
In recent years, there's been a sharp rise in the number of liquid nicotine-related calls to U.S. poison control centers.
Just a small amount of nicotine can cause seizures and other dangerous symptoms in children, Dr. Donna Seger, director of the poison control center at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told ABC News.
Hockey Star Sidney Crosby Has the Mumps
Hockey superstar Sidney Crosby has been diagnosed with the mumps.
The Pittsburgh Penguins player is the latest of 14 NHL player known to have come down with the disease, and it's believed there may be a few other cases that were not announced by teams, USA Today reported.
Crosby was a low-risk candidate for the mumps. He was up to date on his immunizations and even received a booster shot before he played for Team Canada at the Olympics in Russia last February.
The Penguins have taken precautions to protect players against the disease since the outbreak began in the NHL in October -- including aggressively cleaning their dressing room -- but Crosby's case highlights how difficult it is to halt the spread of the mumps, USA Today reported.
Health Insurance Websites Increasingly Busy Ahead of Deadline
The HealthCare.gov and state insurance websites are preparing for a surge of action Monday as the deadline looms for new customers to choose health insurance plans that take effect Jan. 1, and for current coverage holders to make changes that could save them money.
The deadline is midnight Monday, Pacific time, which is 3 a.m. on Tuesday in the East, the Associated Press reported.
Consumers phoning the federal telephone help line began having longer wait times (an average of 20 minutes) about the middle of last week as a large number of current enrollees started seeking information about their coverage for next year.
Premiums will rise for many current customers, but they might be able to reduce the amount of the increase by shopping online for a better deal, the AP reported.
Currently, about 6.7 million people have coverage through the Obama administration's health insurance program, and the goal is to have 9.1 million by 2015.
Selecting an insurance plan can be challenging for many people, "but they appreciate the ability to get health insurance," Elizabeth Colvin of Foundation Communities, an Austin, Texas, nonprofit that is helping sign up low-income residents, told the AP.
"People who haven't gone through the process don't understand how complicated it is," she added.
Last year's open enrollment was plagued by technical problems that affected HealthCare.gov from the first day. While the website is now functioning fairly well, new problems continue to occur, the AP reported.
Eleven percent of Americans said they or someone else in their household tried to sign up since the start of open enrollment on Nov. 15, according to an AP-GfK survey.
Nine percent of those respondents said the insurance markets were working extremely or very well, 26 percent said they were working somewhat well, 39 percent said they were not working well, and 24 percent said they didn't know enough to offer an opinion.