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Health Highlights: June 4, 2015

First Skull/Scalp Transplant Performed by Texas Doctors Live Anthrax Sent to 51 Labs in 17 States, plus 3 Other Countries: Pentagon Current Bird Flu Vaccine Ineffective Against Outbreak: USDA

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

First Skull/Scalp Transplant Performed by Texas Doctors

The world's first partial skull and scalp transplant was performed by doctors at the MD Anderson Cancer Center and Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas.

The patient -- 55-year-old Jim Boysen of Austin -- had a large head wound from cancer treatment. The surgery took place May 22 and Boysen was expected to leave the hospital on Thursday, the Associated Press reported.

He was amazed at how well the new skin and coloring matches his own.

"It's kind of shocking, really, how good they got it. I will have way more hair than when I was 21," Boysen told the AP.

Last year, doctors in the Netherlands used a 3-D printed plastic replica to replace most of a woman's skull. Boysen is believed to be the first person to receive a skull-scalp transplant from a human donor, rather than an artificial implant or simple bone graft.


Live Anthrax Sent to 51 Labs in 17 States, plus 3 Other Countries: Pentagon

Pentagon officials now say the Defense Department mistakenly sent suspected live samples of anthrax to at least 51 laboratories in 17 states and also to labs in Canada, Australia and a U.S. Air Force base in South Korea.

That's much higher than the number announced last week, and officials said the number of labs that received the shipments is likely to increase, The New York Times reported.

Contact with live anthrax can be fatal, but Pentagon officials said the shipping mistake posed no threat to the public due to the low concentrations of anthrax in the samples.

Officials said there are no indications that any lab workers have been infected, but 31 are being monitored and given preventive treatment in case they were exposed to anthrax, The Times reported.

The samples were sent from the Army laboratory at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. Workers at the lab did not kill anthrax spores through radiation and did not confirm that spores had been killed before they were shipped out, deputy defense minister Robert Work told reporters.


Current Bird Flu Vaccine Ineffective Against Outbreak: USDA

The current bird flu vaccine is not effective enough to be approved for emergency use in the outbreak that's devastating the Midwest poultry industry, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The agency said the vaccine is not well matched against the H5N2 virus causing the outbreak and does not provide enough protection, the Associated Press reported.

"The vaccine currently available offers just 60 percent effectiveness in chickens, leaving 4 in 10 birds unprotected. The vaccine's effectiveness in turkeys is still being studied," the USDA said Wednesday.

Officials said the outbreak has cost chicken and turkey producers more than 45 million birds since early March, with most of those losses in Iowa and Minnesota, the AP reported.

Efforts to develop more effective vaccines will continue to be supported, and they will be evaluated as they become ready for use, the USDA said.

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