Health Highlights: Feb. 22, 2018

Largest-Ever Cluster of Advanced Cases of Black Lung Found in Virginia TV Host Wendy Williams Has Grave's Disease New Hepatitis B Vaccine for Adults Endorsed by Expert Panel

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

Largest-Ever Cluster of Advanced Cases of Black Lung Found in Virginia

The largest cluster of advanced black lung cases ever recorded in the United States has been identified in Virginia, federal officials say.

Between 2013 and 2017, more than 400 coal miners seen at three clinics in southwestern Virginia were found to have an advanced form of the disease, The New York Times reported.

This group of patients adds to growing evidence of a new black lung epidemic in central Appalachia as the Trump administration moves to review coal dust limits set by the Obama administration.

The severity of black lung disease among the miners in Virginia "knocked us back on our heels," David Blackley, an epidemiologist at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, told The Times.

Nearly one-fourth of those miners had been on the job for less than 20 years.

Throughout the coal belt in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virginia, "there's an unacceptably large number of younger miners who have end-stage disease and the only choice is to get a lung transplant or wait it out and die," Blackley told The Times.


TV Host Wendy Williams Has Grave's Disease

Wendy Williams is taking three weeks off from her TV show after being diagnosed with Graves' disease and hyperthyroidism.

She made the announcement on her show Wednesday, CBS News reported.

Graves' disease is "an immune system disorder that results in the overproduction of thyroid hormones," according to the Mayo Clinic. Weight loss, anxiety, irritability, hand tremors, bulging eyes, fatigue and heat sensitivity are among the symptoms.

Williams' doctor ordered her to take three weeks off from work, but she said she wants to return sooner, CBS News reported.


New Hepatitis B Vaccine for Adults Endorsed by Expert Panel

A new vaccine to protect adults against hepatitis B has been recommended by a U.S. government advisory panel.

Heplisav-B was licensed late last year and is the first new hepatitis B vaccine in 25 years. Hepatitis B vaccines have been part of childhood shots for decades, but the new vaccine is for adults, the Associated Press reported.

Cases of hepatitis B -- which is spread through contact with blood and other bodily fluids and can harm the liver -- are on the rise in the U.S., and the increase has been linked to the opioid epidemic.

Studies have found that older hepatitis B vaccines have reduced effectiveness in people with diabetes and older adults. The new vaccine -- given in two shots over a month -- contains an additive that improves the body's immune response, the AP reported.

Heplisav-B was endorsed Wednesday by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which advises the U.S. government. Its recommendations are usually adopted by federal officials.

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