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Health Highlights: Feb. 13, 2015

Most Research on U.S. Health Care System Doesn't Use Gold Standard: Study Mad Cow Disease Case Confirmed in Canada Ebola Victims Infectious For Week After Death: Study

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

Most Research on U.S. Health Care System Doesn't Use Gold Standard: Study

Few studies looking at ways to improve the United States' health care system use the gold standard of scientific research, according to a new study.

This standard -- known as random assignment -- is routinely used in the development of new drugs and compares results among patients randomly selected to receive either a new therapy or no treatment, The New York Times reported.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers analyzed hundreds of studies about improving health care and found that only 18 percent of those conducted in the U.S. used the random assignment method, compared with 41 percent of studies conducted in other countries.

The findings were published Thursday in the journal Science.

The MIT researchers and experts not involved in the study said the fact that so few studies in the U.S. use random assignment is a missed opportunity at a time when the country's healthy care system is experiencing so many challenges and so much change under the Affordable Care Act.

"At the end of the day they will have very little definitive evidence about whether these great innovations they are funding are actually working," Jon Baron, president of the nonprofit Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy, told The Times.

About 18 percent of the U.S. economy is consumed by health care, which accounts for about a quarter of federal government spending.


Mad Cow Disease Case Confirmed in Canada

A case of mad cow disease has been confirmed in Alberta, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says.

It added that no part of the infected beef cow entered the human food or animal feed systems, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Officials are trying to determine how the animal became infected and to find all animals believed to be at equal risk so that they can be destroyed.

The agency said the last confirmed case of mad cow disease in Canada was in 2011, and that this latest case should not affect exports of Canadian cattle or beef, WSJ reported.


Ebola Victims Infectious For Week After Death: Study

People killed by Ebola remain infectious for at least a week after they die, a new study says.

In the outbreak in West Africa, it's believed many people contracted the highly infectious disease from unprotected contact with corpses.

The study offers "microbiological proof positive of what we've been observing in a field setting -- that kissing or washing or caressing bodies is almost certainly the way a lot gets transmitted," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the New York Times reported.

In the study, monkeys were infected with Ebola. When they were on the verge of death, they were euthanized and their bodies placed in plastic tubs in a temperature-controlled chamber set to mimic hot August in West Africa.

As the monkeys decomposed for 10 weeks, their mouths, noses, eyes, skin and other surfaces were swabbed each day and samples collected from their livers, spleens, lungs and muscles, The Times reported.

Infectious Ebola virus was detected in the surface swabs for seven days after the monkeys died, and in their internal organs for three days after death.

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