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Health Highlights: June 3, 2015

South Korea Creates MERS Task Force More Than 10 Million Signed Up for Health Coverage Under Affordable Care Act Groups at White House Meeting Agree to Reduce Antibiotic Use

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

South Korea Creates MERS Task Force

A task force has been created in South Korea to try to contain a Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak, the country's president announced Wednesday.

Two people have died so far, 28 people have been diagnosed with the virus, there are nearly 1,400 suspected cases, more than 1,300 people have been quarantined, and about 500 schools will be closed Thursday, the Washington Post reported.

There is no vaccine or cure for the virus, and the government has been criticized for being to slow to respond to the outbreak.

"There are a lot people worried about this situation," President Park Geun-hye Park said at an emergency meeting of officials and health experts Wednesday, the Post reported. "We must make the utmost effort to stop MERS from spreading."

The MERS outbreak in South Korea is the largest outside of Saudi Arabia, where MERS first appeared three years ago. Concerned that MERS has already spread from South Korea, China is implementing containment measures.


More Than 10 Million Signed Up for Health Coverage Under Affordable Care Act

About 10.2 million Americans were signed up for health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act in 2015 through federal and state marketplaces as of March 31, the Obama administration said Tuesday.

That's 13 percent lower than the 11.7 million announced in March, and White House officials said many of those who left the rolls failed to pay their share of premiums, The New York Times reported.

Federal subsidies are helping 6.4 million people buy insurance in states where the marketplace (exchange) is run by the federal government, according to Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of health and human services.

Nationwide, the federal government is providing insurance subsidies in the form of tax credits to 8.7 million people, including 2.3 million in states that run their own exchanges, the administration said.

The average tax credit for people who qualified for financial help was $272 a month, The Times reported.


Groups at White House Meeting Agree to Reduce Antibiotic Use

A wide range of groups that met at the White House Tuesday agreed to reduce their use of antibiotics in an effort to combat the growing threat of antibiotic resistance.

The session about the public health crisis included representatives of hospitals, medical societies, food producers and restaurant chains, The New York Times reported.

Each year, antibiotic resistance results in the deaths of at least 23,000 of the more than two million Americans who develop infections that don't respond to treatment with the drugs.

Last fall, the White House announced a national strategy to reduce overuse of antibiotics.

"There's no single event that turns the tide, but cumulatively I don't think anyone has ever put this kind of focus on antibiotic resistance before," Allan Coukell, senior director for health programs at the Pew Charitable Trusts, told The Times.

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