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Health Highlights: July 18, 2013

Salmonella Outbreak in 26 States Linked to Live Poultry: CDC Daughter Says Mandela Has Made 'Dramatic Progress' Give Chickenpox Drug as Soon as Possible After Exposure: CDC MERS Not a Global Health Emergency: WHO Scientists Shut Down Extra Chromosome Linked to Down Syndrome

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

Salmonella Outbreak in 26 States Linked to Live Poultry: CDC

A salmonella outbreak that has sickened 125 people in 26 states has been linked to live poultry from an Ohio hatchery, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Nearly one-third of the patients have been hospitalized but there have been no deaths. Children ages 10 and younger account for 41 percent of the patients.

The number of cases in each state are: Alabama (3), Arizona (3), California (1), Colorado (2), Connecticut (3), Delaware (1), Georgia (1), Illinois (4), Indiana (1), Kentucky (4), Maine (1), Maryland (1), Massachusetts (7), Minnesota (3), Mississippi (2), Nebraska (1), New Jersey (2), New York (10), North Carolina (10), Ohio (19), Pennsylvania (8), Tennessee (12), Vermont (2), Virginia (3), West Virginia (15), and Wisconsin (6).

Investigators have traced the outbreak to live poultry from the Mt. Healthy Hatchery in Ohio.

The CDC reminds people to always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam, and never to let live poultry inside the house.


Daughter Says Mandela Has Made 'Dramatic Progress'

Anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela has made "dramatic progress" in his health and could leave the hospital "anytime soon," according to his daughter Zindzi.

On the eve of Mandela's 95th birthday on Thursday, his daughter told Britain's Sky TV that he is gaining "energy and strength," and "I think he will be going home anytime soon," the Associated Press reported.

"I visited him yesterday and he was watching television with headphones," Zindzi said in the interview. "He gave us a huge smile and raised his hand ... He responds with his eyes and his hands."

Her description is in stark contrast to the one in court documents filed by the family earlier this month which said Mandela was on life support and near death. Mandela has been in hospital since June 8 and officials say his condition is critical but stable, the AP reported.


Give Chickenpox Drug as Soon as Possible After Exposure: CDC

A drug called Varizig should be given to patients as soon as possible and within 10 days after they're exposed to the chickenpox virus, according to updated recommendations released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC also said that Varizig should be given to people who are at high risk for severe chickenpox or to those who are not considered protected against chickenpox or cannot receive the chickenpox vaccine, such as certain groups of newborns and premature babies, people with weakened immune systems and pregnant women.

Varizig (varicella zoster immune globulin) is approved in the U.S. to minimize chickenpox symptoms when given to people after they've been exposed to the virus that causes the disease. The updated recommendations appear in the July 18 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published by the CDC.

Since the U.S. chickenpox vaccination program began in 1996, there has been a significant decline in the number of people with the illness, but cases still occur, the CDC noted.


MERS Not a Global Health Emergency: WHO

A new respiratory virus that's killed 45 people is spreading so slowly that it does not amount to a global health emergency and no travel restrictions will be issued for now, according to the World Health Organization.

The decision about Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) was made after the second meeting of the agency's emergency committee of outside experts to assess the risks of the virus, The New York Times reported.

MERS, which is related to SARS, has been fatal in more than half of the 84 known cases. Most of those cases have been in Saudi Arabia or other Middle Eastern countries, in travelers recently returned from the region, or in family members of those travelers or health workers who treated them.

The source of MERS is unknown, as is the number of undiagnosed mild cases. On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia said that it had recently tested nearly 1,460 blood samples and found only two mild cases of MERS, The Times reported.


Scientists Shut Down Extra Chromosome Linked to Down Syndrome

It's possible to shut down the extra chromosome that causes the intellectual disabilities and development problems in people with Down syndrome, according to a new study.

People with Down syndrome are born with three, not the usual two, copies of chromosome 21. Working with human cells grown in laboratory dishes, the University of Massachusetts Medical School team found a way to suppress expression of that extra chromosome, the Boston Globe reported.

The findings, published in the journal Nature, suggest that it may be possible to find a way to shut down the extra chromosome in people.

"It really is revolutionary, in terms of causing us all to rethink the one impossible thought -- can you make, functionally, that extra chromosome disappear," Dr. Brian Skotko, co-director of the Down Syndrome Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, told the Globe.

"I don't think any of us thought it was possible or even within the current realm of scientific dreaming," said Skotko, who was not involved in the study.

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