Health Highlights: March 20, 2015

Teens Change Clothes, Do Homework While Driving: Study Numerous Safety Problems at CDC Laboratories: Report Experts Call for Moratorium on Human Genome-Editing Technique Many Unaware of Impending Supreme Court Decision on Health Care Law: Survey

HealthDay News

HealthDay News

Updated on March 20, 2015

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

Teens Change Clothes, Do Homework While Driving: Study

Many American teens are heeding warnings about texting and driving, but some are doing other dangerous things behind the wheel, such as changing clothes, a new study finds.

Researchers surveyed teens in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington state and found that about 40 percent texted while driving, a lower rate than in earlier studies, National Public Radio reported.

However, 27 percent said they sometimes change clothes and shoes while driving. Some also said they did homework, changed contact lenses, or put on makeup when behind the wheel.

"We were pretty surprised at the changing clothes bit," study leader David Hurwitz, an assistant professor of transportation engineering at Oregon State University, told NPR.

"Teens are busy, I guess," he added.

The study was published in the Journal of Transportation Safety and Security.


Numerous Safety Problems at CDC Laboratories: Report

There's a lack of safety leadership and proper safety training at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and many staff are afraid to report accidents, according to an advisory panel of biosafety experts.

The panel was appointed by the CDC after high-profile accidents with anthrax and bird flu last year. Their review, dated Jan. 13, was posted on the CDC website this week, USA Today reported.

"We are very concerned that the CDC is on the way to losing credibility," the experts wrote. "The CDC must not see itself as 'special'. The internal controls and rules that the rest of the world works under also apply to CDC."

The panel made almost 20 recommendations for safety improvements, and the CDC said it is already making changes in some areas, USA Today reported.

"CDC concurs with these recommendations, has made progress towards implementing them, and will soon report on that progress," according to text posted with the advisory panel's report the CDC's website.

The agency's high-security labs handle many potentially dangerous materials, including the Ebola virus, deadly strains of influenza, and anthrax.

"It's critical that we continue to solicit feedback on how we can improve our operations, especially functions as critical as lab safety," said Sherri Berger, CDC's chief operating officer, USA Today reported.


Experts Call for Moratorium on Human Genome-Editing Technique

A global moratorium should be placed on the use of a new technique to edit the human genome, a group of leading biologists say.

They're concerned that the new technique -- which can alter human DNA in a way that can be inherited -- is so easy to do and effective that some doctors may start using it on patients before it's safety can be assessed, The New York Times reported.

The public also needs to understand the ethical issues. While the technique could be used to cure genetic diseases, it can also be used to enhance traits such as intelligence or beauty, the biologists noted in a paper published in the journal Science.

"You could exert control over human heredity with this technique, and that is why we are raising the issue," group member David Baltimore, a former president of the California Institute of Technology, told The Times.

The technique was invented in 2012 and has been used to edit the genomes of mice, rats and monkeys, but many believe it would work the same way in humans.

"It raises the most fundamental of issues about how we are going to view our humanity in the future and whether we are going to take the dramatic step of modifying our own germline and in a sense take control of our genetic destiny, which raises enormous peril for humanity," group member George Daley, a stem cell expert at Boston Children's Hospital, told The Times.


Many Unaware of Impending Supreme Court Decision on Health Care Law: Survey

Many Americans don't know that President Barack Obama's health care law could be threatened by a Supreme Court ruling this summer, a new survey finds.

The Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 53 percent of respondents were unaware of the case, even though recent oral arguments received national media attention, the Associated Press reported.

When told that the Supreme Court could rule to deny financial assistance to people in the many states with federally-run insurance markets, 62 percent of respondents said such a decision would harm the nation.

"The public is not making a legal judgment," said Drew Altman, CEO of the nonpartisan foundation, the AP reported.

"When it's explained to them that some people will get help depending on whether the state or the federal government runs the marketplace, it does not seem fair to people. It does not make sense to the majority," he said.

The poll also found that the 43 percent of respondents had a negative opinion of the health care law, while 41 percent had a positive opinion.

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