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Health Highlights: Jan. 13, 2015

More Measles Cases Linked to Disney Parks in California FDA Announces New Drug Quality Office Two-Thirds of Americans Support Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods

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

More Measles Cases Linked to Disney Parks in California

Seven new patients with measles bring the number of cases linked to Disney theme parks in California to 26 people in four states, California health officials say.

Most of the patients visited Disneyland or Disney California Adventure between Dec. 15 and Dec. 20 last year, but officials said some people may have contracted the highly contagious disease from others who visited the parks, CBS/Associated Press reported.

The cases include 22 people in California, two siblings in Utah, and one case each in Colorado and Washington. The patients are ages 8 months to 21 years, and at least 8 of them had not been vaccinated.

"This could easily turn from two people into dozens, hundreds, if you don't jump on it very quickly," Dr. Joseph Miner, executive director of the Utah County Health Department, said of the cases in his state, CBS/AP reported.

"The real difficult thing with measles is you become infectious four days before the rash starts, so even before you recognize it as measles, you can be infecting other people," Dr. Helene Calvet, Orange County deputy health officer, told CBS News.


FDA Announces New Drug Quality Office

A new office to monitor and improve drug quality is being created by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA said its Office of Pharmaceutical Quality will "integrate and streamline all quality functions," including the reviews required for drug approval and inspections of manufacturing facilities, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The new office is not being created "in direct response to problems," according to Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA's center for drugs.

Problems in recent years include recalls of some extended-release versions of generic drugs, WSJ reported.

While the new office will publish overall quality ratings for the drug industry, it will not release results for individual companies, Woodcock said.


Two-Thirds of Americans Support Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods

Two-thirds of Americans say that food makers should have to label genetically modified products, a new survey finds.

Twenty-four percent are neutral and seven percent oppose requiring labels on foods that contain genetically modified ingredients or are grown from seeds engineered in labs.

Only about 40 percent of the 1,010 adult respondents to the December Associated Press-GfK poll said the presence of genetically-modified ingredients is very or extremely important to them.

That's higher than the percentage who said it's important to know whether a food is organic, and about the same percentage of those who said that protein levels in foods is important to them, the AP reported.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not require labeling of genetically modified foods, and says those sold in the U.S. are safe. However, supporters of labeling say too little is known about the possible effects of genetically modified foods and consumers have a right to know what is in their food.

The poll also found that support for labeling crossed political lines, with 71 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans favoring labeling, the AP reported.

Some states are grappling with the issue. Last May, Vermont passed a law that will require labels for genetically modified foods starting in mid-2016 and would be the first such law in the country if it survives legal challenges.

Similar laws were passed by Maine and Connecticut, but take effect only if neighboring states follow suit. In recent years, ballot initiatives to require labeling of genetically modified foods were narrowly defeated in California, Oregon and Washington, the AP reported.

A bill in Congress would block such attempts. The bill would reaffirm that labeling of genetically modified foods is voluntary, overriding any state laws that require labels.

Some in the food industry are responding to consumer pressure about genetically modified foods. For example, Whole Foods plans to label genetically modified products in all its U.S. and Canadian stores by 2018, while some companies have opted to eliminate all genetically modified ingredients from their products, the AP reported.

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